Dagnabit…that seductress, otherwise known as the potato, has struck again. Only this time, she turned up on the arm of her good friend soup…an irresistible couple they are, indeed.
So, as promised, I am slowly cultivating the soup recipe selection here on Delectabelle with the weather turning cool and crisp and winter right around the barren corner. (Uplifting, hey?) In all honesty, soup is one of my very favorite meals, and I am always a little giddy when that time of the year comes around when I can eat them without self-combusting with heat overload.
So, this little gem of a soup is one to file away for the books. I love this recipe because it is hearty and balanced. You have your meat group, vegetable group, and potato, er, starch group. And aside from that, this is just plain delicious. I am the type of gal who loves to entertain and cook for a crowd.
This is an excellent winter-time meal to cook up for a group of friends to hunker down and watch football all day, or for a good old-fashioned movie night…both some of my favorite get-togethers. And hang on there…don’t fret Mr. Popularity with more friend’s than you can keep track of. You could easily double this recipe for a larger group, as well as add more chicken or gnocchi, depending on your tastes to bulk up the dish.
For those who do not know, gnocchi is a traditional, Italian “pasta” dish. I put pasta in quotes because it is often mistaken for a traditional pasta, but these fluffy little pillows of scrumptiousness are actually crafted from good old fashioned (you guessed it) potatoes. When cooked right, you can really feel and taste the texture of the potatoes and it is quite a treat. I highly recommend eating gnocchi with fresh sage butter drizzled on top, as an alternative dish from this soup.
And, as always, you can replace some of the heavier items that the recipe calls for with lighter versions, such as a lower fat milk or butter substitute. I don’t recommend it with this recipe necessarily because it really alters the flavor, but if you come up with a great mixture on your own through experimenting, please do post a comment here and share with other readers!
Hearty Chicken, Spinach & Gnocchi Soup
- 1 cup chicken breasts, cooked and diced (or rotisserie chicken)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 quart half and half
- 1 14 ounces can of chicken broth
- 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 cup carrots, finely shredded
- 1 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin oil
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon parsley
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound potato gnocchi (see below)
- 3 pounds large baking potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Unsalted butter, at room temperature, as needed
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wash the potatoes, prick them with a fork and place them on a sheet pan. Bake them until very soft, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Resist roasting them at a higher temperature to speed up the process--you want the skin and flesh just inside the skin to become crusty.) Cool them slightly and scoop out the insides. Rice the scooped potato with a ricer, or mash them with a fork. Place them in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth to retain their heat. The potatoes must be used while they are still very warm.
- Beat the eggs and yolk lightly together in a small bowl. Add them to the potatoes along with the flour, rosemary, salt, a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Mix gently with your hands until all the ingredients are well incorporated and the dough is smooth.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured flat surface. Lightly knead and add a little more flour if the dough is overly sticky. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, uncovered.
- Roll the dough into thin 1/2-inch thick logs and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Using a generous amount of flour, press each piece against your thumb tip to make a dent or roll it over the back and off the tip of a floured fork tines to make the traditional ridged shape. Place the finished gnocchi on a lightly floured sheet pan. Cook them as soon as possible in boiling salted water. (For every 5 quarts of water add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt.)
- Add the gnocchi to the boiling water. When they rise to the top, let them cook for a minute or two and then remove them with a slotted spoon. Drain well.
- (Note: If the gnocchi are not to be cooked right away, they should be frozen. The gnocchi can be made up to two weeks in advance and frozen on sheet pans. Once they are frozen solid they can be transferred to a sealable bag or wrapped tightly to avoid freezer burn. Do not thaw them before cooking or they will stick together. To cook them, throw the frozen gnocchi directly into the boiling salted water without thawing. Their cooking time will be slightly longer than unfrozen but their preparation should be completed in the same manner as with fresh gnocchi.)
- Saute the onion, celery, and garlic in the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the flour and make a roux. Let the butter and flour mixture cook for about a minute before adding 1 quart of half and half.
- Into the roux, add in the carrots and chicken. Once the mixture becomes thick, add the chicken broth. Once the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasoning;, simmer until soup is heated through.
- Note: You can add more chicken if you like. While you could use leftover cooked chicken breasts, I really think using the rotisserie chicken that are found in many grocery stores is the best way to get the optimal flavor of this soup. If you want to make the soup lower in calories, you can use milk instead of half and half. Half and Half does taste better though, and it also reheats better than milk does.