Cooks Illustrated Italian Chicken Soup with Parmesan Dumplings-Famous Fridays
Italian Chicken Soup with Parmesan Dumplings

Wherever you live--how are you handling the winter so far? We've had a bit of snow and a few really frigid days but other than that I really can't complain (although those around me would argue that I certainly have been doing my fair share). I know that some of you have been socked with major winter weather, even in areas that don't generally see any snow and I can't think of any better way of combatting the cold than with a big pot of soup bubbling away on the stove. And I can't think of any better recipes for coming up with that bubbling pot than my current crush:  the aptly named Cooks Illustrated All Time Best Soups Cookbook which is filled with so many of my all time favorites! Everything I've made from it so far has been awesome which makes it totally deserving of the Famous Fridays status!! It was hard to pick just one to share for today but in the end, the cuteness of the dumplings won out and thus I present this rustic, colorful and healthy Italian Chicken Soup with Parmesan Dumplings. If staying warm by spooning liquid perfection into you sounds good, today's your lucky day!

It's really no surprise that this book is so terrific, seeing as it comes from the food gurus at Cooks Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen. I've learned so much from their precise recipes and clear explanations over the years and this book continues on in the same tradition. It's filled with full page color photos and recipes that run the gamut from quick and classic offerings like Weeknight Chicken Soup to the more exotic Vegetable Shabu-Shabu with Sesame Sauce. I want to make them all, but first this amazing Italian Chicken Soup.

Do you cook with fennel often? I'm not really a huge fan of this anise-flavored veggie but in this soup it adds a really interesting zing. I highly recommend you try it!!

The other thing that adds a ton of flavor is the Parmesan rind that hangs out in the soup while the broth and veggies cook. Yum!!! And of course, there are the fluffy little Parmesan enhanced dumplings floating around that make this whole soup experience even more fun! Who can resist the lure of the dumpling?!

Every bite is hearty, comforting and so full of flavor and texture. There's just so much going on!! And while this is not a soup to start when you get home from work cause it takes a while to come together, none of the steps are particularly difficult and the end result is definitely worth the time! 

Guys, the winter's barely begun, so pick up a copy of All Time Best Soups and treat yourself to the best in winter warmth! And if you're hunkering down this weekend, put up a pot of this soup and watch the snow fall knowing you've got the most potent anti-winter weapon bubbling away on the stove! Stay warm!!

Cooks Illustrated Italian Chicken Soup with Parmesan Dumplings-Famous Fridays

Makes 6 servings
Prep Time:  Several hours but a lot of that is hands-free time while the soup is cooking


  • 1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper to season chicken
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds discarded, bulb cut in half and cut into small pieces
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thickish discs
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or you can sub in an extra 1/2 cup of the chicken broth)
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind, plus 3 ounce Parmesan (buy about a 4 ounce piece and cut away most to shred by hand, still leaving a nice bit on the rind)
  • 2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 small head of escarole, trimmed and chopped into small pieces

The Recipe

1.  Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot. Meanwhile pat chicken very dry with a paper towel and season with a bit of salt and pepper. When oil is hot, add the chicken to the pot, skin side down and cook for about 7-8 minutes, until browned. Transfer chicken to a plate, remove and throw out skin.

2.  Drain all but 1 teaspoon of fat from the pot and reserve about 1 tablespoon of it in a small bowl for the dumplings. Return the pot to medium heat and add the fennel, onion, carrots and a pinch or two of salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to brown. Add the wine or broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits, letting it cook for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is almost dry. Add the chicken back in, along with the broth and the Parmesan rind and bring to a boil. Then, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is entirely cooked through (if the pieces are very large, you may need to cook it for longer). Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool and remove the Parmesan rind from the pot and discard. Cover the pot again and remove from the heat. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces. Toss out the bones.

3.  While the soup is cooking in Step 2, preheat oven to 350ºF. Use a food processor to finely grind the bread with 15-20 pulses. Measure about 1 cup of the fresh crumbs and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet (if there are extra crumbs, use them for something else). Don't wash the food processor bowl yet. Toast the crumbs in the oven for about 5 minutes, until they are light brown. Then place them in a medium bowl and let them cool. Set aside the parchment lined tray because you'll be able to use it again.

4.  Cut up the reserved Parmesan into several pieces and place them in the same bowl that you used to make the bread crumbs. Pulse until the cheese is finely grated. Once the bread crumbs are completely cooled, add the grated Parmesan, the 1 tablespoon of reserved fat, the egg whites, lemon zest and a shake or two of pepper. Mix the ingredients together well and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

5.  When dough is chilled, use about 1 teaspoon of it and roll into little balls, placing them on the reserved parchment-lined baking sheet. You should be able to get about 28--they're small.

6.  Place the pot back over the heat on medium-high and add the shredded chicken and the escarole. Bring to a simmer and add the dumplings, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, letting them cook for 3-5 minutes or until they all float to the surface. Check one to make sure they are cooked through. Taste the soup and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.

7.  Leftover soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days and reheated in a small pot or in the microwave.


Note:  Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated All Time Best Soups by Cooks Illustrated. I used chicken breasts instead of thighs because we like white meat better and I omitted the fennel fronds and nutmeg. I didn't use wine because we didn't have any open and I didn't want to open a bottle for only 1/2 cup. It was amazing just using chicken broth and I bet it would be great using the wine as well. I also upped the amount of escarole--this is one of those soups you can tinker around with---very versatile.


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