You mean Campbell’s didn’t invent chicken noodle soup? Most of us grew up on it, and many of us still enjoy a steaming bowl with crackers. It may be all you can remember eating from the last time you had a cold or the flu. The can with the classic red-and-white label has been as much a prescription as a meal, but it’s always been a medicine I enjoy taking. Before I became a chef, I thought Campbell’s invented chicken noodle soup.
Truth of the matter is nearly every culture and every cuisine has its own version of chicken noodle soup, whether it’s made from long, thin, wide, tube-shaped, star-shaped noodles or pasta in any size or flavor. About the only constant among all the world’s noodle soups is that, almost without exception, they’re broth-based soups and that, well, they have noodles.
And that STILL leaves the world with an awful lot of choices. Chicken, beef, fish, pork, lamb, shellfish, vegetables, miso and countless other variables or combinations are all in play, not to mention all the possible additions of vegetables, eggs, and other innumerable garnishments.
Bottom line, there are A LOT of hearty noodle soups out there, many of them JUST as delicious as the classic chicken noodle soup we all know and love. So it got me to thinking that this year, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite hearty noodle soup recipes. Before I do that, let me say a few words about noodles.
Noodles, of course, are pasta, and pasta, if it is to be a featured item in the soup, must be given the same amount of attention and love as anything else you add, maybe even more. Pasta isn’t particularly crazy about hanging out in a broth without retaliating with a really soggy attitude.
A quick trip around the Noodle World. To say that the classic Japanese ramen noodle bowl is a hearty noodle soup is an understatement. Copious amounts of big fat noodles with just enough broth to qualify as a soup pretty much say it all. It’s a carbohydrate bomb! Tilt the bowl up to your mouth and pray that your chopsticks can stop the cascade of noodles into your tummy long enough for you to catch your breath. If you like noodles and anything put in the bowl to keep them company, this is your soup. THIS is noodle nirvana.
The German spaetzle soup is another hearty noodle soup recipe, which can use any number of broths and meats for garnishment, including chicken, duck or beef. By the way, the word “spaetzle” translates to “little sparrows,” which has to do with the noodle being a batter that creates smaller dumpling-like noodles. Depending on the amount of spaetzle noodles you use, it can be a VERY filling and satisfying soup on a cold winter day.
The Spanish/Mexican version of chicken noodle soup, Sopa de Pollo con Fideos, often uses angel hair or vermicelli pasta for its noodle. It, too, is a hearty dish often served as a first course at the family dinner table.
In Russia, their version of chicken noodle soup is called chicken lapsha (lapsha is Russian for noodles). The recipe is basic but very exacting. Although there are numerous variations, typically a whole, fresh chicken is simmered with a whole, peeled onion and some celery to give the broth a good flavor. The noodles are freshly made and cooked separately, then combined with just the strained broth and the chicken meat.
Likewise, the Italians have the very popular Pasta E Fagioli, which also features vegetables and beans.
For me, I like a lot of stuff going on, so my favorite noodle soup recipe not only has noodles, vegetables and chicken but also Italian sausage and shrimp. There’s something for everyone here.
Now, before I begin, let me say that I prefer to make my chicken broth from a whole chicken with some onions, celery and carrots and use both the broth and some of the cooked meat for my garnish. If that’s too much of a bother, you can simply simmer approximately 2 chicken breasts in 2 quarts of a commercially prepared chicken broth, and then use both the broth and the diced meat from the breasts afterwards. While I’m mentioning diced, everything in this recipe can be diced about 3/8” to ½” in size.
Also, two more things: Keep in mind that the chicken broth will be seasoned a bit from the addition of the Italian sausage and the shrimp, so don’t overdo the seasoning. And you can, of course, add your own additional ingredients or change the penne pasta to another pasta you happen to have in the cupboard. Enjoy!
Pete’s VERY Hearty Noodle Soup
(Makes about 3 quarts or 8 servings)
- 1 Cup Sweet Onion, Diced
- ½ Cup Celery, Diced
- ¼ Cup Carrot, Diced
- 2 TBSP Butter
- 2 Quarts Chicken Broth or Stock
- 2 Cups Cooked Chicken Meat, Diced
- 2 Links Nino’s Sweet Italian Sausage, Cooked & Diced
- 6 to 8 Shrimp, RAW, Medium-Sized, Peeled, Deveined and Diced
- 2 Roma Tomatoes, Seeded, Diced
- ½ Cup Navy Beans, Canned, Rinsed
- 1 Handful Baby Spinach Leaves
- 2 Cups Cooked Penne Pasta (al dente)
- 1 tsp Dry Parsley Flakes
- ¼ tsp Oregano
- Pinch Thyme, Dry
- To Taste Salt & Pepper
- In a large sauce pan or pot, sweat the onions, celery and carrots in the butter until tender. Do not brown.
- Add everything else.
- Bring to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes.