It’s officially soup season in upstate New York. Being a year-round soup lover, I celebrate this time of year because I can justify making it for dinner, amidst the complaints from my soup-hating children. Yes, I know, how can they not like a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup? Usually I can get them to fish out the pasta with their spoons. Neither of them will touch the carrots. They hate them cooked, and only like them raw. You’d think mushrooms were poisonous the way they shriek if I manage to accidentally spoon one into their dish.
Alas, this soup has everything I love it in. This is even a case where I’ll eat the chicken (I’m generally not a fan, even though it’s said I make an incredible roasted one). Something about adding tortellini to my soup brings back to being a kid. It’s like a fountain of youth with each slurp.
Why is it called marathon soup, you ask? Well, C was in town the beginning of this month to run the NYC Marathon. I’m in awe that he ran 26 miles in five hours. Perhaps I could summon the energy if the prize for finishing was a shopping spree in the shoe department of Bergdorf’s, but even that might be a stretch. His dinner request was a pot of soup. This was a challenge, almost, considering “home” was an apartment we rented at the Marmara Manhattan, on the upper east side. The kitchen was well-enough equipped, but of course the pantry was lacking all the supplies I have at home, and there was no chef’s knife in sight. Just serrated steak (barely) knives.
So, I walked a few blocks to a local supermarket, and scrounged up some ingredients to make a soup based on my 60-minute chicken stock. I took it one step further, though, and decided to make the soup from start to finish in the pot. Normally I make my stock, then use the broth with a fresh batch of vegetables to ensure they still have some bite left in them. The carrots are a little softer than I generally prefer, but didn’t mind them here. Something about meltingly, tender carrots and the cheese tortellini provided the comfort we both needed that night.
Chicken & Tortellini Soup
1 3/4 pounds (1 kilo) chicken thighs & legs
Fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces (93 grams) white button mushrooms (about 8 large), sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 onion, peeled & cut in half
2 cups (150 grams) carrot slices
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
6 cups (1.5L) water
2-inch rind of Parmigiano or Pecorino Locatelli cheese
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, tied in a bunch with kitchen twine
3 ounces (84 grams) cheese tortellini, optional
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat a 4-quart pot over a medium-high flame. Add a swirl of olive oil to the pot. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken, skin-side down (you may need to do this in two batches, as to not overcrowd the pan). Let it cook, undisturbed, until the skin is a deep golden color. Turn over, and cook on the other side until golden, as well (don’t worry about the chicken being cooked through at this point). Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a dish.
Add the mushrooms, and sauté until lightly browned, and they’ve released most of their water. Add the onion, carrots and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Give everything a good stir, making sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the water, cheese rind, parsley, and put the chicken back into the pot. Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer (just a few bubbles popping to the surface), and let cook for 30 minutes. Remove the parsley. Add the tortellini, and continue to cook until the pasta is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes (see Make Ahead note). Remove the chicken from the pot, shred, and stir back into the soup, or serve in whole pieces on the side. Serve hot.
Make Ahead If you plan to cook this soup, and serve it on another day, then it’s best to cook the tortellini separately, and add it to the soup when ready to eat. This way you can avoid having the pasta absorb all of your hearty broth.
Make it Your Own Swap in meat tortellini, or plain pasta, if you prefer.