I went around all day yesterday talking to myself (I know, it's a problem) debating whether or not to post this soup for you today. It's not that it's not blog-worthy or that any of us didn't fall madly in love with it. It's just that despite the fact that it's the first week of November, it's a balmy 70ºF here in New York today--not exactly soup weather. But this soup is so delicious and such a wonderful one-bowl meal, that I decided to throw caution to the wind (which believe me, is going to start fiercely blowing any day now) and share it anyway. It's that good!!
In my former life when I used to dance, the studio I studied and worked at, was actually around the corner from the soup place that was the inspiration for the "Soup Nazi" episode on Seinfeld. Long before it was popular, my friends and I would scrape together the money (it was kind of expensive for starving artists, but hey, we were starving) and go wait on the line to buy soup from him. And while the episode is a brilliant exaggeration of the quirks of this particular soup place, it was true that if the guy liked you, you might get bread, fruit and a piece of chocolate with your order, but if you asked too many questions or didn't order quickly enough, you'd only get soup and maybe some saltines! Ah, the good old days! This soup sort of reminds me of the kinds the soups they sold there.
And it's chock-full of so many good ingredients that are good for you too, like chicken, mushrooms, beans, carrots, spinach, pasta etc. that it's almost more of a stew than a soup. Tear off a piece of crusty Italian bread to go with it and dinner is served! Don't get put off by the long list of ingredients either. Make this on a weekend when you have some time and you'll have lots of leftovers to enjoy all week long!
You start by roasting garlic and mushrooms which adds a real depth of flavor and a subtle sweetness to the soup.
Then you basically just toss lots of stuff into a big stock pot and let it cook together till the veggies are tender and everything melds together. It's really flexible too-- you can sub in or omit anything you don't like or want more of. Each bite is a terrific blend of tender chicken and veggies with a little kick of garlic. Healthy, comforting and satisfying. So make this soon because even though you may feel that summer has returned, as they like to say over and again in Game of Thrones, "Winter is coming!".
Chunky Chicken, Mushroom and Bean Soup
Makes about 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour (only about half of that is active time); Cook Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces (feel free to add more if you really like carrots)
8 cups chicken broth (you may need more as the pasta tends to absorb the broth)
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (you can use a rotisserie chicken, leftover chicken or poach a couple of chicken breasts and shred them when cool)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 heads of garlic, left whole
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 cup small pasta, like macaroni or ditalini
15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1-eight ounce bag of baby spinach
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place both heads of garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Wrap it up tightly and place in the oven to roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Place the mushrooms in a small baking dish, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Stir a couple of times during the roasting process. Remove garlic and mushrooms from oven when ready and set aside. When garlic is cool enough to handle, unwrap and peel the cloves. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, heat the rest of oil over medium heat. Add the onion, lower the heat to love and cook for about 15 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add the broth, cooked chicken, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so that soup is simmering. Cook for about 1 hour adding mushrooms and peeled garlic cloves in the process as soon as they're ready.
4. Add the pasta to the soup and cook for another 10-12 minutes, stirring often, until pasta is barely done. Add the beans, parsley and spinach and cook for another few minutes until the beans are heated through and the spinach is wilted.
5. Ladle into bowls and serve. Leftovers will last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You may want to add a little more broth when you reheat the soup as the pasta tends to absorb a lot of the liquid.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Foster's Market Cookbook by Sara Foster. I tinkered around a lot with this. Swapped carrots for the celery, cut the salt and pepper amounts, omitted the rosemary, and doubled the beans, plus a few other things.