The other day Zachary asked me if my favorite food was soup and I couldn’t exactly say no. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite food (though lahanodolmades and lamb are waaaaaay up there) but I’d have to say that soups/stews are definitely my favorite type of food. That’s probably why I have so many of them posted, I guess.
Soups are easy to make and even the more time consuming ones call for little work on your part. They can be made pretty healthily, are filling, make large amounts, and are great leftover. This one in particular takes hardly any time at all if you already have cooked chicken (and not much more if you don’t).
When I first saw the title of this recipe, I thought it was going to be avgolemon soup with orzo instead of rice, but I was happy to learn it was something different. Don’t get me wrong, I love (read: am obsessed with) avgolemono, but I was looking for something a little different. This is basically a standard chicken noodle soup with lemon and chard. The lemon brightens the soup and makes it feel nice and light, even though the chicken, whole wheat pasta, and chard allow this to be quite filling.
When stored overnight, pasta (and rice) soups will absorb a lot of the broth, making the soup much thicker. I reduced the amount of broth by quite a bit the night I made this, and then just added some the following night when I was reheating it. Another option is to cook the pasta separately and add it to your bowl before ladeling the soup over it. In that case, I would reduce the broth down to about 6 cups and reduce the lemon juice accordingly.
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
- 5 minutes (if chicken is already cooked)
- 30 minutes
- 6-8 servings
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 medium carrots, sliced
- 3 celery ribs, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 10-12 cups chicken broth*
- 1 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cooked and diced (I roasted the chicken)
- 8 oz. orzo (I used whole wheat)
- 2/3 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
- zest from one lemon
- 1 large bunch spinach or swiss chard, chopped
- Heat the oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and oregano; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir in the broth* and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the orzo, lemon zest, and juice. Cook about 4 minutes before adding the chicken and spinach/chard. Simmer until the pasta is cooked, spinach is wilted, and chicken is warmed through, about 3 more minutes. Season to taste again if necessary.
*Note: I used about 9.5 cups of broth to make this and on night 1 it was perfect. When I reheated it the next day, I added about 1.5 more cups of broth, since much of it had been absorbed by the orzo. Reducing the broth and upping the lemon juice made this slightly more lemony than the original recipe - but I wouldn't have it any other way. :)