I made my first solo pot of soup in November, on a Sunday afternoon, when I was a senior in college. I had found a giant orange Dutch oven at a local thrift store for the bargain price of $10 and it called for nothing more than a colossal batch of soup. I made beef barley, calling my mom for instructions at least four times during the cooking process. My roommates and I ate it for days, curled up under blankets in our rickety rental house.
I have made hundreds of pots of soup since that first batch but it has yet to become tiresome (here’s hoping it never does!). During late summer, I make a vegetable soup from eggplant, zucchini, onions and tomatoes, simmered with a Parmesan cheese rind and then lightly pureed. In fall, I am all about squash, leeks and root vegetables. Winter calls for hearty bean soups made from scratch. By springtime, I am grateful for asparagus and the light, creamy soup that it makes.
Right at this moment, I am infatuated with chicken soups. I spent most of last weekend working on a trio of poultry recipes for my hugely pregnant younger sister and her husband. This is their first baby and so I’ve been filling their freezer with easy dinners so they can eat well without missing a moment of time with the new little person.
One recipe I like a whole lot for this purpose is Paula Deen’s Italian Chicken and Vegetable Soup. It’s hearty, intensely flavorful and accessible for a range of cooking levels. It’s just the thing for chilly fall weather and The Weekender.
Before you fire up your soup pot, there are a few things you should know.
- Get the chicken and all your vegetables chopped before you start. The initial cooking goes quickly and you want to ensure that you’re ready as each step arrives.
- I found that the recipe as written needed a bit of spicing up. I added dried basil, minced garlic, a pinch of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
- For a thicker, stew-like consistency, skip the additional chicken stock and just rely on the juice from the tomatoes.
- This soup is one of those magic dishes that tastes better the next day and freezes up beautifully. Double the batch and stash some in your freezer for a harried weeknight.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. She grew up attending weekly potlucks and even had a potluck wedding. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook will be published by Running Press in Spring 2012.