Hello Fall, warm up with Chicken Parmesan Soup

October came in with a sharp, crisp burst of air. Summer seemed to hang on until the last of September, but October 1 welcomed us with cool air, perfect for sweaters and tall boots. My favourite kind of days.

Warm up to fall with this comforting, cheesy chicken parmesan soup | www.pickytoplenty.com
This cheesy chicken parmesan soup will be sure to keep your warm up on a crisp, fall evening | www.pickytoplenty.com

Warm up to Fall with Chicken Parmesan Soup

Sure, I love summer. But there is something about fall that puts a smile on my face. Maybe it’s the beauty of the coloured leaves, the pumpkin-spiced everything or the cozy feeling I get cuddled up on the couch with a big sweater. Nothing warms me up like a big bowl of piping hot soup on a cool, fall evening. Throw in some bubbly, baked smoked cheese and homemade garlicky croutons and you have the perfect soup to welcome the new season. This chicken parmesan soup will warm you up from the inside out. It’s everything you love about the classic Italian dish tossed into a soup pot, ladled into bowls, topped with crusty croutons and smoky cheese and broiled until golden and bubbly. I want another bowl just from writing that description.

Tomatoes were not something I enjoyed as a child. I liked my pasta buttered and sprinkled with Parmesan. No sauce. No vegetables. Just butter and cheese. Boring, right? Though I still love the occasional bowl of my boring childhood favourite (don’t knock it till you try it, it’s simple but delish, my ultimate comfort food), I have also learned to embrace new foods, including the tomato. Especially when they are just picked from the garden.

Yes, fall has arrived but the last of summer’s harvest is still hanging on. I mentioned that I failed at summer gardening this year. That’s not entirely true. I sold myself a little short. While my gardens weren’t as bountiful and cared for as previous years’, they did produce a harvest. I am still enjoying ripe tomatoes from the few plants I grew this year. The tomatoes are small but super sweet and add a ton of flavour to comforting fall dishes like this chicken parmesan soup (and the Italian beef stew I have simmering away in my oven — I am trying not to drool on the keyboard as I type this).

Warm up to fall with this comforting, cheesy chicken parmesan soup | www.pickytoplenty.com
This hearty chicken parmesan soup offers up all of the flavours of the classic Italian dish, ladled into bowls and topped with crusty, croutons and smoky cheese then broiled until golden | www.pickytoplenty.com

I have been spending a lot more time in the kitchen lately. I had strayed away for a while. Sure, I was in there every day to make dinner (and do the dishes), but I wasn’t pumped about the dishes I was creating. They were boring, uninspired. Nothing I wanted to write about. I suppose you could say I lost my cooking mojo. But it’s back, and my head is bursting with ideas for dishes I can’t wait to prepare. Maybe it’s the change in season. Maybe it’s the harvest happening around me. It doesn’t matter why it’s back, it just matters that it is back and I am taking advantage of this newfound inspiration and turning those ideas into delicious dishes, like this rich and cheesy chicken parmesan soup. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

I have always loved the gooey, cheesy appearance of French onion soup. I was never an onion fan as a child (and I still need to mince them down to nearly microscopic size in order to not gag on the layered texture) so I rarely indulged in this classic soup. But I was always drawn to the cheese and crouton topping. I would pretend as though I was going to give onions another chance just to taste the broth-soaked bread and gooey cheese. I would eat the good part, slurp up a few spoonfuls of broth and call it quits. No way was I going to eat those onions.

I still have trouble enjoying French onion soup. I truly love the flavour — the buttery, carmelized onion flavour, the rich beef broth and the bubbly, golden-baked cheese and bread topping — but I still have trouble with that layered onion texture. With this chicken parmesan soup, I can have my soup and eat (all of it) too. There are no noodle-length strings of onions to contend with, just a rich, creamy (without the cream) broth, tender chunks of chicken and golden baked garlic croutons topped with melted smoked mozzarella cheese. Yum!

Warm up to fall with this comforting, cheesy chicken parmesan soup | www.pickytoplenty.com
Chicken parmesan soup is the perfect meal for the first chilly day of October | www.pickytoplenty.com

Food always tastes better when it’s prepared using fresh, quality ingredients. This soup was made with tomatoes just picked from my garden, chicken stock made from the last of my roosters and onions grown in my backyard. What I didn’t produce myself, I purchased from some of my favourite vendors at the Grimsby Farmers’ Market. It pays to get to know the market vendors. Once they get to know you and your shopping habits, they start to save the freshest produce for you. Pelham’s Rumar Farm is one of my favourite booths to visit each week. Marc and Ruth sell a wide variety of heirloom fruit and vegetables, and I love trying something new from them each week — whether it’s the mini eggplants or the super hot peppers. This week, Marc gave me some heirloom garlic that was perfect for flavouring this hearty soup, along with the freshest of his cantaloupes (sadly, the last of this season). The smoked mozzarella came from another one of my favourite market vendors, Grills Cheese. The cheese truck is a dangerous place to be on a Thursday afternoon. John is very generous with the samples and it is far too easy to consume a large amount of cheese in a short period of time (it also becomes dangerous for the wallet as the more you sample, the more you buy — it’s a great marketing ploy he has going).

This chicken parmesan soup was the perfect local food welcome to fall on a chilly October evening.

Warm up to fall with this hearty chicken parmesan soup | www.pickytoplenty.com
Warm up to fall with this hearty chicken parmesan soup | www.pickytoplenty.com

Chicken Parmesan Soup

  • 1 medium-sized onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic from Rumar Farm, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp red chilli pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1-2 tsp fresh, ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 5 C homemade chicken stock
  • 3 C chopped tomatoes with juice (can substitute with canned tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or to taste)
  • 1/2 C Parmesan cheese
  • 2 handfulls egg noodles
  • 8 slices baguette
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter
  • 1 clove local garlic, minced
  • shredded smoked mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until just starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, chill flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté another minute.

Add hot chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken breasts. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes.

Remove chicken and shred using two forks. Puree remaining ingredients in pot. Give the broth a taste and adjust the seasonings. If it needs a little extra sweetening, add the honey and taste again. Once the stock is at your desired taste, return chicken and cook another 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 450.

Add noodles and Parmesan.

Mix butter and garlic, spread on both sides of baguette slices. Bake for 5 minutes. Flip and bake another 2 minutes. Cut into cubes.

Set oven to broil.

Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls. Top with toasted croutons and cheese. Broil until golden and bubbly.

Enjoy while it’s piping hot.

Leftovers are great for lunch the next day.

Warm up to fall with this comforting, cheesy chicken parmesan soup | www.pickytoplenty.com
Say hello to fall weather with this flavourful chicken parmesan soup | www.pickytoplenty.com

What’s your favourite dish to welcome fall?

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