Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chicken Minestrone with Orzo

Take this warm, wholesome minestrone to the table and no one will be disappointed. Its rich flavors and meaty texture hide the fact that this is one light, fresh, and healthful soup. Cooks in about 30 minutes.

Minestrones typically include small pasta, and here I used a very small orzo—no. 74 size. What’s that number all about?

The story goes that non-Italian immigrants to America who landed jobs as pasta makers needed a convenient way to understand the size of the pasta to be made—without having to learn the names of hundreds of kinds of pasta. When you’re not proficient in a language, it’s easier to learn “make a no. 12” or “make a no. 74.” It worked and it stuck.

Most importantly here is that very small orzo is the way to go for the minestrone. This pasta puffs up several times its dry size when cooked, so a larger dry style can overwhelm the dish. If you can’t find no. 74 orzo, try macaroni, ditalini, or conchigliette (baby shells).

No. 74 Orzo
Note: This recipe makes fairly thick minestrone, including the puffiness of the orzo. (And if you make the soup several hours or a day ahead, the pasta will puff even more.) If you like a thinner minestrone, add more broth.

Tip: If you can't find cannellini beans, substitute great northern.

Serves 6

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced peeled carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 28-oz can stewed tomatoes, with juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup small orzo
  • 1 15.5-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Prepared Vegetables and Garlic
Cannellini Beans
  1. Heat a soup pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the ground chicken, carrot, onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring to crumble the chicken, until the vegetables begin to soften and the chicken is just cooked through, 7-8 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, with juice, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes. 
  3. Add the broth and orzo. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the pasta is tender, 10-12 minutes.
  4. Stir the beans into the soup and cook until hot throughout, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste for seasoning.
Chicken Mixture Beginning to Cook
Cooked Chicken Mixture
Tomatoes Added 
Broth and Orzo Added 
Cooked Minestrone
Divide the minestrone among 6 bowls and serve.

Chicken Minestrone with Orzo

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