Colder months call for rich and flavorful soups. Making them in a slow cooker is an easy fix it and forget it meal. This soup can be prepared at your home or while you are enjoying time at the campground. Prepping the ingredients in advance is the key so that everything is ready and waiting for you to put it together before you set the timer and press start. A great example is roast chicken parmesan soup for the road.
One of my essential grocery store items for this recipe is a roasted chicken. Today, most stores have a fantastic selection of pre-cooked and seasoned roast chicken. Delicious choices would be barbecue-seasoned, herb-roasted or mesquite-seasoned whole chickens. Let’s face it the longest part of the cooking process when using fresh or raw chicken in a soup or stew is the time to cook the chicken. With that step eliminated, you can put this meal together in under four hours.
A Flavorful Addition
I love aged parmesan cheese rinds and how they add a fantastic flavor to soups. The longer-aging process ensures the water content is lower and the flavors are concentrated so that the rich saltiness flavors the broth perfectly. Some delis will now sell just the rinds for you. Keep them wrapped in your freezer until you need to use them.
Using fire-roasted tomatoes is an additional key to deepening the smoky flavor of this soup. I love the flecks of the charred tomatoes and the concentrated flavor, and this way there are no pans to scrub or bbq’s too light to char your own tomatoes.
Simplify Your Holiday
This soup has become our Christmas day lunch staple. I can set up the crock-pot early in the morning before we open presents or have breakfast. By 1 p.m., the soup is hot and bubbling the only extra I do is crisp a loaf of garlic bread in the broiler. Clean up is a breeze since I did the food prep the night before, the chicken is fully cooked and using a crockpot guarantees a one-and-done cooking method. To dress up this meal, try using the small round bread bowls to serve portions in. You could add all the toppings and slip the bread bowls under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese and crisp the bread top.
This soup is excellent to bring to a potluck, a community camping meal or to keep on hand in freezer containers for those nights you just don’t want to cook. I have taken the leftover soup and created a fantastic enchilada bake. First, start by straining out the soup ingredients and place them in a bowl. Second layer tortillas, cheese and the soup mix in the baking pan. Before adding the next layer drizzle a bit of the soup broth over the mixture, which helps keep each layer moist while you bake enchiladas.
Above I mentioned a bit about the flavor parmesan cheese rind adds to the soup, but do you know the difference between Parmigianino Reggiano and Grana Padano? I didn’t until I did more research on this helpful website. The two cheese are very similar in taste, but what sets them apart is the different processing methods and maturing times. Once fully aged, both types of cheese are fine, grainy and break into flakes. However, what separates these two kinds of cheese is the regions they are created in and the use of preservatives with the process of Granda Padano. That addition is there because many of the aging processes have grass involved to impart flavor so that additive is there to keep the cheese-free from harmful bacteria. The aging times are very close, usually between 16-30 months. A way to tell if you have a young cheese is that it does not crumble and shatter or break apart. A young parmesan cheese can be shaved into thin strips or long shavings.
What type of pasta do you choose for this soup; a small flat orzo, ear shape orecchiette, or petite pastina? What about a corkscrew shape like spirali, cavatappi, cellentani or fusilli? The smaller, flat-shaped pasta fills your spoon and thickens or plumps up when cooked. Hollow pastas fill with the ingredients that help you taste every part of the soup with each bite you take. It’s a tough call but one worth exploring.
The beauty of Italian pasta is that there are over 350 different shapes, almost enough to enjoy a new pasta every day of the year. From rustic and traditional handmade pasta to pasta that is pressed through brass plates and cut into shapes. When cooking pasta use a large pot a lot of well-salted water (should taste like the ocean) when you cook it. Everything else is up for interpretation. If you would like to learn more about the world of pasta, follow this link to Barilla, the number one producer of pasta worldwide. On their website, you will find articles, recipes and a fantastic diagram with all the pasta types and shapes they create.
Slow Cooker Chicken Pasta and Parmesan Soup
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 yellow onion, chopped
• 4 carrots, chopped
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) fire-roasted tomatoes
• 1 fully cooked roast chicken, meat removed
• 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
• 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
• 1 teaspoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
• 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 6 ounces (uncooked) dry penne pasta
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish
Place all fresh chopped herbs in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator. In 5-quart or larger slow cooker, add olive oil, dried herbs, onion, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, chicken, chicken broth, 1/2 cup cheese, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook on low 6 hours or on high 3 hours.
Stir in pasta. Cook on high 20-30 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. If soup becomes too thick after the pasta is cooked, stir in an additional 1-cup of water or broth and warm through.
Serve bowls of soup with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a bit of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.