Originally posted September 24, 2014. Revised and updated January 7th, 2017.
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If you know and love the Olive Garden, there is an irrevocable, undisputed fact: their soup and salad combo is the best.
It beats peanut butter and jelly. Pummels peas and carrots. Shames Sonny and Cher.
Aside from the salad and endless breadsticks, the soups on their menu are tasty Italian classics, like minestrone and pasta e fagioli.
Another popular choice is the gnocchi chicken soup, a hearty bowl that warms the soul.
And now, you can make it right in your own kitchen!
Warm up to a thick and creamy bowl with our recipe below. It’s packed with veggies, homemade potato gnocchi, and lots of Italian love! For a tasty and very colorful alternative, use our recipe for sweet potato gnocchi.
Other sites might call this a copycat post, but we’re not going to – it’s even better than the original!
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prepare the Chicken and Veggies
Fill a medium-sized pot halfway with water. Bring to a boil. Carefully place the whole chicken breasts in the pot.
You want to make sure they will cook evenly, so it is important that each breast is completely submerged in the water.
Boil until they are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Check to make sure they are done by removing one breast and cutting it in half. If it is all white in the middle, it is done. If it is still pink in the middle, it needs more time to boil.
You can also use a meat thermometer to ensure that the chicken has reached 165°F, but that isn’t really necessary here, since you will be shredding the chicken. Cutting into the meat won’t interfere with the presentation!
This is a great recipe to make if you have any leftover cooked chicken. Or, better yet, just use that rotisserie chicken you picked up the other day at the grocery store!
To make your soup the quick way with already prepared chicken, just skip this step, remove the meat from the bones and shred it, and wait to add it until Step 5.
While the chicken is boiling, going ahead chop up your carrots, celery, onions, and garlic.
Step 2 – Sauté the Veggies
In a large stockpot, melt the butter, but do not let it brown.
Immediately add the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until the veggies are just slightly softened and thoroughly covered in the butter. Do not let the garlic or onions brown too darkly, and turn down the temperature on the stove if necessary.
Step 3 – Make a Roux
A roux is a type of a thickening agent that is a combination of butter and flour cooked together. It is the pride and joy of properly prepared soups, stews, sauces, and many other dishes that require a thick base.
Sprinkle the flour a little at a time over the butter and vegetables. You want to whisk constantly using a large balloon or gravy whisk, to prevent the flour and butter from clumping and burning.
Whisking constantly, continue to cook this mixture until all the flour is completely incorporated and releases a slightly nutty, fragrant aroma. This will take just a few minutes. Avoid excessive browning by keeping the temperature low.
Step 4 – Add Liquid Ingredients
First, pour in the chicken stock (even better if you make your own!), using a gravy whisk or spoon to scrape all of the flour and butter from the bottom of the pan. Continue to stir until everything is completely incorporated into the stock. Continue to cook for 10 minutes.
Next, slowly pour in the half and half while stirring constantly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for an additional 10 minutes. It will start to thicken.
Step 5 – Add Dry Ingredients
Add the shredded poultry, spinach, and gnocchi to the pot. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the soup has thickened to the desired consistency.
If the soup has become too thick, add a little extra stock or water to thin it out.
Step 6 – Season and Serve!
Mix in the 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped thyme, and season the finished soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve hot, making sure each serving gets a good amount of gnocchi and chicken.
Olive Garden Right at Home!
To get your fill of some hearty soup, there is no need to drive all the way to Olive Garden. To enjoy a restaurant-quality meal at home that features all of your favorite, just make this delicious recipe, and serve it along with a big salad and some fresh bread!
If you love this recipe, you’ll also like our other Mediterranean warming favorite: Greek-style lemon orzo soup!
And for more comforting chicken soup recipes, you’ll definitely need to make these:
Are you a fan of homemade restaurant classics? What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.