If I had an Italian grandmother, I am sure this is the chicken soup she would make for my seven brothers and sisters and me. Okay, I don’t actually have seven siblings. In fact, I’m an only child. However, I always imagine Italian meals as large family affairs, so I have to conjure up some additional characters to set the scene. My pleasantly plump nonna would be standing by the stove, ladling out the steaming soup into large earthenware bowls, exclaiming “Mangia, mangia!” (Incidentally, “Nonna” is what my kids call my mum. We obviously have a deep-seated yearning for some Italian blood in our veins. And yet, nary a drop.)
When I spotted this recipe by Tasty Kitchen member Melanie, I knew it was likely to become a family favorite. The broth is rich with the taste of roasted onions and garlic, pesto and chicken broth pureed together (be sure to read about my broth mishap below and learn from my mistake so you can avoid green-colored blinds and carpet). The gnocchi is gently boiled in the broth until tender and plump and the savory mixture is ladled over simply roasted, shredded chicken. It is comfort in a bowl. I swear I can feel my fictitious nonna’s hug as I take each bite.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to get started. Roasting chicken breasts can sound intimidating, but it’s one of the easiest things to do. Stay with me here.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts—skin, bones and all—into a roasting pan. Separate the onion quarters and scatter the pieces, along with the unpeeled garlic cloves, over and around the chicken breasts.
Drizzle over some olive oil. I promise it’s not going to get any harder than this.
Season with salt and pepper and slide those babies into the oven. You’re well on your way.
Roast the chicken for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it is cooked through.
Transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board to cool. Remove the onion and garlic and peel the garlic. The cloves will be soft and buttery.
In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, combine the chicken broth, roasted onion pieces and peeled, roasted garlic. Add 3 tablespoons of pesto and pulse until smooth.
Now, let me give you a little tip here to save you some cleanup time. Do not—I repeat, DO NOT—try to do this all in one batch. I was feeling a little over-confident in my blender’s ability to hold mass quantities of liquid. Since I take all of my food photos in the living room (for the best light), that is where the blending took place. That is also where the combination of chicken broth, pesto, onions and garlic blew out the side of the blender lid and all over my carpet, blinds and furniture. It’s a good thing my kids weren’t home at the time or they would have learned some unsavory words to add to their vocabularies. Moral of the story: puree the mixture in two batches—in the kitchen!
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces, removing and discarding the skin and bones. I like to use my hands to do this, but two forks would work well, too.
Transfer the chicken to a bowl and stir in the rest of the pesto until the chicken is coated.
Transfer the chicken broth mixture to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until the little guys pop up to the surface.
Place some of the chicken in each bowl and ladle over the broth and gnocchi.
Garnish with chopped Roma tomatoes and serve. “Mangia, mangia!”
Thank you, Melanie, for sharing your incredible recipe. Melanie’s site The Coupon Goddess is not only filled with tips on saving money at the grocery store, but has loads of mouthwatering recipes. Be sure to check it out.
A quick and delicious soup made from pantry and freezer staples that will have your guests thinking that your Nonna passed the recipe down to you!
- 3 Chicken Breasts, On The Bone
- 1 whole Yellow Onion, Quartered
- 8 cloves Garlic, In Skins
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 pinches Salt
- 3 pinches Black Pepper
- 2 cartons Chicken Broth, 32 Ounces Each
- 1 jar Pesto 8oz
- 1 package Gnocchi, 16 Ounce
- 3 whole Roma Tomatoes Seeded And Chopped
Preheat oven to 350F. Place chicken breasts in a roasting pan. Break apart quartered onion and scatter around and on top of breasts. Toss garlic, skins and all, around the chicken. The garlic will not flavor the chicken at this point. We are merely roasting them and will add them to the broth in a bit. Drizzle olive oil on chicken. Salt and pepper to taste and roast for 35-45 minutes or until the center is white and no longer pink.
Once cooked, allow the chicken to cool so that it can be shredded by hand. Scoop out roasted onion and garlic to use in broth. While the chicken is cooling, pour broth into a Cuisinart or blender along with the onions and roasted garlic (skins removed after roasting of course) and three tablespoons of the pesto. Pulse until there are no large chunks of garlic left. About 3 five second pulses should do the trick. The roasted garlic will give the soup a velvety feel in your mouth. Definitely don’t skip this step. It’s so worth it.
Back to the chicken. After shredding it, mix in the rest of the pesto. Stir well and set aside.
In a large pot, bring the broth/garlic/pesto mixture to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they float. In soup bowls, place a pile of chicken in the center. Ladle the hot broth over the chicken and garnish with chopped tomatoes. Mangia bene (eat well)!
Dara Michalski is a doll and a sweetheart who clearly knows her way around the kitchen. She blogs at Cookin’ Canuck, where she shares her flavor-packed recipes and fun, engaging writing. The photography’s pretty incredible, too.