There's a lot of delicious going on in this bowl of soup
It's like an Italian buffet in one bowl of soup.
Call it a Caprese salad meets minestrone meets chicken parm meets gnocchi -- all in one dish.
Così tante scelte! So many choices!
Honestly, it's a lot, but this recipe was intriguing to me on several fronts.
First of all, the recipe called for using basil stems in the broth, something I've never tried before. You tie the stems together, toss them in the broth and then remove them before serving. It added that subtle peppery basil flavor to the broth and allowed me to use the more attractive leaves as a garnish.
Next, the recipe called for garnishing the soup with most of the Caprese salad ingredients -- fresh mozzarella, basil, crunchy bread and balsamic glaze. I love a good caprese salad, so I was keen to try this.
And, finally, I have never used gnocchi in a soup before. I know fans of Olive Garden go ga-ga over the Chicken Gnocchi soup, but it never occurred to me to use gnocchi as the pasta.
So, as you can see, a lot is happening here. You can make life easier for yourself by using store-bought items. I used two precooked chicken breasts, bottled balsamic glaze and packaged croutons.
As if that wasn't enough, I added a can of garbanzo beans so I could divide the soup into two -- half vegetarian with the beans and half with the chicken. If you go with this plan, adjust the amount of chicken and beans accordingly. Or dump both into the same pot and go for broke.
I also served it with the toppings on the side -- a la carte, if you will. Not everyone in my family wanted the whole shebang at once. They ate everything but preferred a more methodical approach.
I say give the whole big Italian buffet in a bowl a try -- and buon appetito!
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's vice president of sales and marketing and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com/.
Caprese Chicken Gnocchi Soup
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
¼ cup packed basil leaves, torn, divided, stems reserved
4 cups vegetable broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
12 ounces fresh or frozen gnocchi
1 can (14 ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 cup croutons
Pat chicken dry; season both sides with Italian seasoning. In a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Cook chicken, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 160 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Over medium heat, cook shallots in remaining 1 tablespoon oil, stirring, until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until paste darkens, about 4 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping bits from bottom of pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by two-thirds. Stir in tomatoes. Tie basil stems together and add to pot. Cook, breaking down tomatoes with a wooden spoon, until thickened. Add broth and simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Discard basil stems. Add gnocchi and garbanzo beans and cook, stirring, until gnocchi is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Return chicken to pot along with half of torn basil and stir to heat through.
Divide soup among bowls. Top with mozzarella, croutons, remaining torn basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
Adapted from a recipe from Delish.com