The Adventures of Kitchen Girl

April 29, 2014

Chicken Soup with Ricotta Cavatelli

Have I ever mentioned my obsession with soup? I have a love affair with soups and stews that has reached rather epic proportions. Seriously. If it were totally up to me, we'd be having soup at least 5 nights out of 7. Unfortunately my family doesn't quite share my enthusiasm. They do love soup but not so much in the summer and not more than a time or two each week. So when I do make soup, I make a HUGE batch so that I can freeze some in individual packets for my lunches. That way I get my soup fix and I don't have to hear the chorus of whining and complaining from the kids. Currently I have 4 different kinds of soup in my freezer. This chicken soup, some zuppa toscana (minus the spinach, which I add when I reheat it), some chicken vegetable and a taco soup. And they are all MINE! Hahahaha! (Ok, I'll share with everyone, if you REALLY want some.)

  I'm not sure why I am such a soup fiend. Maybe it's because it's so inviting to come home to a pot simmering away on the stove, filling the house with that delicious scent. It just feels warm and comfortable and homey. Like walking in to a great big hug that beckons you to relax and unwind after a long day. There is just nothing like it. Though walking into a home where something tasty has just been baked is pretty close. The best thing about soup night is that usually I have some kind of bread to go with it... sometimes homemade, sometimes a bakery "take and bake" loaf... either way, the combination of freshly baked bread and homemade soup is one intoxicating scent. For me, it's an instant happy place.

This soup was amazing. I loved the cavatelli in it. It's a hardy soup and the pasta holds up really well, even through freezing and reheating. It didn't get soggy or gummy at all. The recipes below make a super large batch, so feel free to halve it, if you like. Don't forget the Parmesan, it really adds something wonderful to the soup. I didn't photograph it with the cheese, so you would be able to see the soup itself, but the cheese added such a nice touch that I can't imagine serving it without.

The cavatelli making was something new to me. I've made lots of pasta over the years and even have a nice pasta maker... which just happened to have a cavatelli attachment that I'd never used before. I did spend some time trying to form the cavatelli by hand using a butter knife and after a few dozen I pretty much got the hang of it... but it is intensely time consuming and I'd decided I needed to get moving so I opted to make the bulk of them with machinery. If I had the time, making it all by hand would have been fun but I was working in the middle of the day and had children to pick up from school. I am going to spend a weekend making some hand rolled cavatelli with the kids one of these days though. I think they would have a blast making them.

I forgot how simple and delicious making your own pasta truly is. Life gets busy and making these simple things by hand gets thrown to the wayside. I want to be more conscious of that. I want to focus more on homemaking everything that I can. While store bough pasta isn't expensive, homemade is even cheaper and the quality far outshines the store bought stuff. It's like that for a lot of things. Homemade is almost always better, usually cheaper and most of the time better for you.

For this batch of soup I used chicken, rosemary and thyme that was leftover from another meal. The stock was homemade from my freezer. The vegetables were what I already had on hand. The only things I bought for this recipe were ricotta, 00 flour and sage. Everything else was already on hand. I've made my own ricotta in the past, but I didn't plan this one far enough in advance to pull off making both the ricotta and the cavatelli. Next time, I pledge to. Because not only do I enjoy it... it makes me feel good knowing my family is eating wholesome, homemade food. That brings me more joy than I can express. Convenience isn't a bad thing. I'm not above the occasional fast food meal... or frozen meal in a box. Life is busy and sometimes you do what you need to, to get a hot meal on the table in minutes. But, I can strive to do better and shoot for more homemade than store bought or easy. The hardest part is planning. Making the time. Being organized and putting the plans into action.

Chicken Soup with Ricotta Cavatelli

Ingredients for the Soup:
2 Pounds cooked bite sized chicken pieces (white, dark or both)
2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups diced celery (include the tender heart and leaves)
3 cups sliced carrots
12 cups chicken stock or broth
10 small sage leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Pounds fresh (recipe follows) or premade frozen ricotta cavatelli cooked according to package directions
Shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish

1: In a large heavy bottomed soup pot, heat butter or olive oil over medium heat.

2: Add Onion, garlic, celery and carrot and sauté until slightly browned and just starting to become tender.

3: To soup pot add chicken stock or broth and cooked chicken and simmer over low heat until veg is tender but not mushy.

4: When the soup is about 10 minutes from serving, add the sage, rosemary and thyme to soup and simmer.

5: Just before service add the cooked cavatelli to the soup and heat through.

6: Taste the broth and add salt and pepper to your liking.

7: Stir in the chopped parsley, after the soup is off the heat and ready to serve.

8: Top off each serving with a small handful of Parmesan cheese shavings.

Makes a large batch of 16-20 servings depending on size.

Ricotta Cavatelli*
1 Pound 00 flour
1 Pound ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, beaten

1: Put flour on a board or in a large bowl. Make a well in the flour and add cheese and eggs. Gradually work the mixture together, adding more flour if necessary, to make a soft but not sticky dough.

2: On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until it is smooth. Let dough rest at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, 30 minutes.

3: Form dough into a round and cut into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time (cover remaining dough to keep it from drying out), on a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rope ¼ inch in diameter. (If using a cavatelli maker, leave the dough in ropes to feed into the machine) With a knife or bench scraper, cut the rope into ½-inch pieces.

4: Using the edge of a butter knife or pastry cutter, with the device at a 45-degree angle, press on each piece of dough and pull across the length of it. It is kind of like the cursive C motion. This motion causes the dough to curl up the edge of the implement (Or do what I did and use a hand crank cavatelli maker)

5: Transfer pasta to a lightly floured baking sheet and let dry at room temperature at least 30 minutes. Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt water well and add pasta. Cook until cavatelli is al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. They're done when they float to the top.
Makes approximately 2 pounds of cavatelli (12 servings)

*Recipe credit for the cavatelli: JSOnline*