Potato & Pesto Chicken Soup

We love basil in our house. I’m not sure that is the proper way to emphasize it, so in spite of correct grammar let me emphasize:

We. Love. Basil.

Thus, this explains the entire row of our garden dedicated to this herb – primarily to satisfy Andy’s constant cravings for pesto. Once the warm air hits the words are not “It’s summer”, the words are “It’s pesto time!!!!”.  So far this summer we’ve put up more pesto than I care to remember. I’m pretty sure our freezer might be made of pesto at this point. Andy has become a pro at what I refer to as pantry pesto. We don’t use $20.00 a pound pine nuts. Andy rarely ever buys anything full price – so it comes as no surprise that he won’t use pine nuts (unless they are on sale). Thus, we have experimented with all different kinds of nuts. Our favorites are cashews – you don’t need to add any salt and they give a meatier texture to the pesto. Almonds will turn it into a sort of pesto paste. Walnuts were okay – but not our favorite. Then there were the peanuts…oh God, the peanuts. Pesto should never, I repeat never, contain peanuts.  It’s like peanut butter pesto (just think about it).

So, in honor of our freezer of pesto, and the fact we still have a ton of basil to harvest before our first frost, which is quickly approaching,  I decided I needed to use some of the pesto up. (the rest of the crop will probably get turned  into..you guessed it..pesto. I wonder if I can get some of it and freeze it before he notices?)

Since it was our first cooler evening, I got the “fall” bug. To me this means hot hearty stews. I had roasted a whole chicken, and decided to use some of the juices and the freshly roasted herbed breast to make this stew. Potato Pesto soup was something my good friend Meg introduced me to in college. I sort of took it and made it my own this time around. I included other veggies, like spinach and red pepper, and took out some ingredients, like ditalini pasta and about 17,000 calories of cream. By the way, I am in no way knocking cream based soups – me and cream are like wheat on rice, only not as healthy.

Enjoy this recipe and as a pantry cook, tweak as needed! Throw in what you have, take out what you don’t have, and add things that I haven’t. That’s all the fun of being a pantry cook – making things your own, and only using a recipe as a very loose guideline.

Potato & Pesto Chicken Soup

  • 1-2 cups Shredded Roasted Chicken Breast
  • Chicken broth reserved from roasting (skim fat, but remember, fat is where the taste is so leave some)
  • 2 cups Pesto
  • 1 medium/small onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 7-8 medium/small potatoes (well rinsed)
  • 1 pad butter
  • Fresh spinach (maybe about a cup?) and extra basil if you want
  1. Turn your soup pot on, and add about a pad of butter. Dice the onion and red pepper, and mince the garlic and add all three to the hot butter.
  2. Saute until the onion and garlic smell good and are slightly translucent.
  3. Dice up your potatoes into about 1 inch chunks and toss into pot – stir and mix all ingredients. Let saute, occasionally stirring, for about 5 minutes. Don’t let the potato’s stick to the bottom. This isn’t really a saute at this point as the potatoes will release starch and water (it’s good).
  4. Add in broth, pesto and enough water to thin out the pesto into a stew consistency. You don’t want it too thick, but you also don’t want it to be thin and broth-y – make it somewhere in the middle. It should cover a potato something like this when you first water it down.
  5. When you can easily pierce a potato, add in the roasted chicken just to warm, the spinach (torn up into pieces of you’d like) and the extra basil if you so desire (I’d recommend rough chopping it).  Simmer for about 5 minutes, just long enough to warm up the chicken. It looks pretty unappetizing at this point – but it smells awesome. If you have younger kids go ahead and call this Shrek Soup – they would probably love it.
  6. Serve! Because of the potato’s you won’t need any extra carbs to go with this dish (i.e. bread to dip in, croutons, etc) but that being said – we had garlic bread anyway.

This is an extremely hearty meal that stands alone easily ( I only ate about 1/4 of everything because I was so full). With the amount of potato’s in it – it goes a long way. I was able to get dinner for 3, lunch for 2, and another dinner for 1 the next night from it. It’s quick to make and goes a long way. I don’t recommend having this every night because of the foods involved – but it’s great to warm those bones and put some heat back into them when the cold starts settling in deep.

Enjoy and remember, being a pantry cook is all about making it work for you.

Happy Eating!

Heather

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