The coronavirus pandemic is in full swing, winter seems to have returned to Chicago – and nothing spells warmth, reassurance and comfort better than a bowl of hot soup to keep the fears and/or the sickness at bay. Enter chicken lemon orzo soup – our family’s all-time-favorite!
Brimming with veggie goodness and succulent chicken, this soup has vitamins likely to help our bodies fight this pandemic, including the much-praised vitamin C. I have been meaning to post this recipe for awhile now, but various family commitments have always stood in the way. Sadly, this posting couldn’t have come at a better time – but maybe this is what’s needed right now, after all, and sadness aside: a dose of delightful soup to make social distancing bearable, and to help us to visualize the better times ahead. 🙂
I usually use boneless chicken thighs to make this soup – I find them convenient and succulent, unlike chicken breast, which our kids sometimes reject due to being rather dry. I start off by boiling the chicken in a pan with a lot of water for about 45 minutes. I then take the chicken out and let it cool down slightly. Once cooled, I tear the meat into shreds using my clean bare hands (alternatively, you can use a knife to cut the chicken into medium-size pieces). To avoid clumps of unappetizing blood in the soup, my mom and I usually pass the chicken broth through a fine colander, and then wash the saucepan well to scrape any blood residue from the bottom.
Once the chicken is cut/shredded, the broth is blood-free and the pan is clean, I put the meat and broth back into the pan and return to boil under medium heat. It is at this point that I add the prepped veggies as well as the freshly squeezed lemon juice, and family favorite dry herbs such as oregano and thyme. Oh, and don’t forget the bay leaves too!
Once the veggies are nearly cooked (about 15 minutes after they were added to the pan), I add the orzo. I let the soup simmer for 8-10 minutes under medium heat, mixing it frequently with a wooden spoon to avoid the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan. I add warm water if soup is too thick and/or chunky, extra lemon juice if soup is not zesty enough, spinach, and salt and pepper to taste.
The last time I made this soup I also had some mini peppers I wanted to use, which increased the cooking time slightly. Usually however, as a rule, you should take the soup off the heat a couple of minutes after adding the spinach.
So gorgeous, so vitamin-packed!
Usually, this soup turns out rather thick and chunky due to the abundance of meat, veggies and pasta. You can always make it lighter by adding extra water during cooking, or decreasing the quantity of pasta.
Just look at the consistency of this soup. My family loves it! As I said above, however, you can make adjustments to suit your own family’s preferences.
This soup keeps well for 3-4 days in the fridge and makes a nutritious lunch or dinner. As our bodies fight germs and viruses every single day, it’s time to give them the nutrients they need to fortify the immune system and our overall response to the ongoing exceptional health-related challenges. Make it during the pandemic, eat it for lunch or dinner, and fall in love with it forever. This soup definitely has a lot of appealing flavors and textures, and my family has succumbed to these a long time ago. I hope you do too 🙂
Chicken lemon orzo soup
- 5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup chopped carrot
- 1 cup chopped celery stalk
- 1/2 cup chopped parsnip
- 1 chopped medium onion
- 2 cups baby spinach
- Juice from one lemon + extra, if desired
- 1/3 cup dry orzo pasta
- 1 tbsp dry oregano
- 1 tbsp dry thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the chicken in a pan with enough water to cover it for about 45 minutes (you can top up with water to ensure proper coverage during boiling). Take the chicken out and let it cool down slightly. Once cooled, tear the meat into shreds with your hands; alternatively, use a knife to cut the chicken into medium-size pieces. Optional: To avoid clumps of unappetizing blood in the soup, you can pass the chicken broth through a fine colander, and then wash the saucepan well to scrape any blood residue from the bottom.
- Once the chicken is cut/shredded, the broth is blood-free and the pan is clean, put the meat and broth back into the pan and return to boil under medium heat. Add lemon juice, oregano, thyme and bay leaves, as well as all of the vegetables except for the spinach.
- Once the vegetables are nearly cooked (about 15 minutes after they were added to the pan), add orzo. Let the soup simmer for 8-10 minutes under medium heat, mixing frequently with a wooden spoon to avoid the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add warm water if soup is too thick and/or chunky. Lastly, add spinach and let it wilt slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste and extra lemon juice, if desired. Take the soup off the heat a couple of minutes after adding the spinach. Serve hot.