The steady pitter patter of rain that provided the chorus to my morning’s activities led me to the decisive move to begin the preamble to this chicken soup recipe. As I began writing, a beam of sunlight hit outside the window and slowly began increasing in size. I’m convinced that this is because chicken soup can make absolutely everything better…. even the weather.
As a society, we often save the serving of chicken soup for the infirm. It’s not really something served in moments of peak fitness, and I have to question why? Could it be that subconsciously we perceive it to be more comforting, soothing and healing when not consumed often? I can’t help but ponder that if it works that well on sick people, it must do amazing things if you are actually healthy to begin with with.
This really is a round about way of imploring you to try this chicken soup recipe no matter what state your corpus is in. I toyed with the idea of actually calling this a recipe for ‘Perfect Chicken Soup’. It is a tall order listing a recipe as ‘perfect’ and really does set one up to all sorts of judgements. But, in reality if you love Italian soups, then this Brodo di Pollo is the only chicken soup recipe you’ll ever need.
It is a two part process using a whole chicken. The first part is the simmering of your own stock with the chicken, roughly sectioned vegetables and a few aromatics (later discarded) and the second part is the preparation of the final soup using the stock, shredded chicken and a mirepoix (a french cuisine term for celery, carrots and onions finely diced as a base for a soup, sauce or stockpot). Don’t let the two part process fool you into thinking this is difficult, you spend a long chunk of time just letting the stock simmer.
The resulting soup, with the addition of risoni (a rice shaped pasta), continental parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to finish it off, is like receiving a big warm hug from your Nonna – and for those of us who’s Nonni are no longer with us, this flavour memory is a beautiful thing.
Brodo di Pollo - Italian Chicken Soup
- 1 whole chicken (for stock & soup)
- 2 carrots, peeled and halved (for stock)
- 3 celery stalks, rinsed and trimmed with leaves removed, then quartered (for stock)
- 1 fennel bulb, stalks removed, then quartered (for stock)
- 1 garlic bulb, halved widthways (for stock)
- Rind from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (for stock)*
- 2 bay leaves, fresh or dried (for stock)
- 1 handful continental parsley and stalks (for stock)
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns (for stock)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (for soup)
- 1 medium brown onion, diced (for soup)
- 1 garlic clove, minced (for soup)
- 2 medium carrots, diced (for soup)
- 2 celery ribs, diced (for soup)
- 1/3 cup dried risoni pasta (for soup)
- Salt and Pepper to taste (to serve)
- 1 handful fresh continental parsley (to serve)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (to serve)
Place chicken and vegetables in a large stockpot over medium heat. Top with cold water till just covered (don't add too much water or the stock will be weak in flavour). Add remaining stock ingredients and let it slowly come to the boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour, partially covered. While simmering, skim the surface of the liquid once or twice to remove any impurities that rise to the surface. Top with more water if required to keep the chicken just submerged.
Remove the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool for a few minutes. When it has cooled, discard the skin and bones and shred the meat with a fork. Set aside in a covered container.
Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl to remove the vegetables and aromatics and set aside. Then, wash and dry your stockpot.
Heat olive oil in the stock pot over medium high heat, then add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and sauté till the onion is translucent but before the mirepoix browns. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the stock to the pot with the shredded chicken and the risoni. Simmer until the risoni is cooked (about 11 minutes, but follow the timing on the pasta packet).
Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper and stir through the cheese and finely chopped parsley then divide between four bowls.
*I keep the rind from finished Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese segments in the freezer for whenever I need to add flavour to simmering soups.