This is not a story about baking, though I was looking forward to it all day yesterday, knowing I’d have an entire day with nothing planned and free reign of the kitchen.
It’s not about the new recipes I wanted to try, including the cookies made with fresh lavender picked from my garden.
Instead, I came down with a horrendous head cold. It was like my eyes, my ears, my temples, my cheeks, my neck, and my shoulders all were joining forces against me, a mutiny against the changing temperatures and accompanying allergies.
When I go home, I put cold compresses on my eyes, took some cold medicine, applied Vicks to the bottoms of my feet and bundled them in thick socks, drank hot tea, and curled up with my laptop.
Though I didn’t plan it, this is a post about soup. Chicken noodle soup.
This the kind of soup you make when your head feels larger than the rest of your body and you realize you won’t get anything else done today and there is nothing, not even the promise of fresh produce and store-bought baked goods, that will make you want to leave your home that day, or possibly ever again.
This is the soup you make with what you have in your pantry, with improvisations and all kinds of tweaks and adjustments, the soup you make because you want it, you need it, if only to remember that there are warm, comforting things left in this world, things that are consistently good and happy, void of any throbbing pains or burning sensations.
This is the soup that sends steaming, fragrant air through your kitchen, helping you to breathe clearly again, calming your nasal passages.
The recipe itself is very flexible, and you really only need three things:
- Broth, prepackaged or made from bouillon cubes or leftover chicken boiled with water.
- Vegetables, which can be anything you want or have on hand – carrots, celery, and onion are the classic basics.
- Seasonings, including herbs of your choice and maybe some salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Play with it – food should be fun, especially when you’re sick.
As an added bonus, if you make this, your weather might just turn cold and rainy, perfect for serving cups of steaming soup and settling in under a blanket indoors.
Ready to make this hearty and comforting recipe?
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather All Ingredients
First, you must decide which ingredients you are going to use. I recommend doing a quick inventory of your fridge and pantry.
I keep onions, celery, and carrots on hand, so I always recommend starting soup with a mirepoix for a good flavor base.
For the chicken stock, will you use homemade or store bought? If you choose store bought, be sure to taste your soup before adding salt. These tend to be quite salty on their own.
When it comes to seasonings, I personally always reach for onion and garlic powder to support the natural flavors already present in the recipe. And don’t forget the salt and pepper, freshly ground for better flavor.
Thyme and bay leaves are also present virtually every time. The addition of herbs can be customized to your tastes and what you have on hand as well, in your spice rack and your herb saver or produce crisper. We will discuss this later.
The shredded chicken can come from leftovers, freshly prepped, or my favorite to use in a time crunch, a store-bought rotisserie chicken. I can’t tell you how many hours of prep these have saved me over the years.
Oddly enough, the fully cooked ones are cheaper than a whole raw chicken, too. Save me money and time? Yes, please.
Many different types of pasta noodles can also be used, to suit your preference and depending on what you have on hand.
Step 2 – Prep Ingredients
Once you’ve made your decisions, it’s time to prep.
Gather and wash your produce. Using a sharp chef’s knife, dice your onion, carrots, and celery.
I used a hearty medium dice because I enjoy a chunky soup. This, too, can be customized.
I also reached for a bag of petite baby carrots this time because it’s what I had on hand. These can be cut into thirds or used whole, whichever you prefer.
Wash the fresh thyme and gather your bay leaves. Set aside in a small pinch bowl.
Measure your seasonings and add to a small bowl. Measure out your stock and set aside.
Pull your chicken off the bone (if necessary) and shred. Set aside. You’re ready to make some soup!
Step 3 – Saute Veggies
To a large dutch oven, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat over medium heat and add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook until veggies are softened, stirring occasionally. Onions should be translucent. Do not let the onoins or garlic brown and turn down the heat if you have to.
You can also use a stockpot, but I prefer an enameled dutch oven for my soup recipes.
Step 4 – Add Stock and Seasonings
Once your veggies are ready, add your chicken stock to the dutch oven. Stir to ensure no vegetables are stuck to the bottom of your pot.
Now, add your seasonings. Traditionally, onion powder, garlic powder, and thyme are popular. Feel free to add your personal flair here though.
Try lemongrass and cilantro for a Thai twist. Fresh parsley can brighten a recipe too. Perhaps you love spice – pinch of red pepper flakes can be delicious as well. The sky is the limit here.
Once your herbs and spices have been added, stir to incorporate them thoroughly.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil. You do not need to increase your heat.
Step 5 – Add Pasta and Chicken
Once your liquid is boiling, add your pasta of choice.
If you have celiac or your family members are gluten intolerant, reach for the gluten-free pasta.
Making this for the kiddos? I like to use the super adorable shaped pasta. My son loves the trains, planes, and rocket ships variety. I’ve also seen sea creatures for the ocean lovers.
I used a spaghetti noodle because, well, it’s what I had on hand. Breaking it into pieces before adding it to the broth will make the soup easier to eat.
Orzo, vermicelli, egg bowties, or any other shaped pasta will work wonderfully.
Add your shredded chicken and stir.
Let the contents come back to a boil, stirring occasionally. When your pasta is al dente, decrease your heat, or turn it off if you are ready to serve. Check package directions, as cook times will vary depending on the type of pasta that you have selected.
Soup is done when the pasta and vegetables are tender. Season one more time with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 6 – Serve or Store
If you wish, you may allow the soup to cool completely after cooking, and put it into freezer safe containers to freeze and enjoy another day.
I always make a double batch, so I’ll have plenty to freeze. It makes a quick and delicious lunch or simple dinner. All you have to do is heat and eat!
Before storing or serving, remember to remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Serve in large bowls with the garnish of your choice. I like to use chopped fresh herbs that are already present in the recipe.
Any way you choose to make this fantastic recipe, you will find it speaks to your soul. It’s like a big hug from your favorite person, bringing you comfort and relaxation.
Soothing rawness in your sinuses or throat, this warm steaming liquid will bring you back to life or lull you into a peaceful slumber. Whichever you need, it can provide both.
Ready to feel better? Or just need a comforting and soothing meal? Whip up this recipe and add your own creative twist. You will be so glad you did.
Don’t forget to comment below and let us know your favorite additions, so we can enjoy them too! And check out more of our soup recipes here, for something a little different.
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Photos by Leslie Morrison, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published September 10, 2008. Last updated: October 30, 2018 at 7:33 am. Additional writing and editing by Leslie Morrison and Allison Sidhu.
*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 Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.