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Great taste, less work

Great-tasting soup in only 10 minutes? Yes, it's possible.

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When Curtis and Jane invited me to their soup party, I knew cheating was the only way I could accept. This invitation came with rules: No. 1. Make an enormous pot of soup. No. 2. No canned soup permitted. No. 3. Don't even think about buying soup from a deli counter.

Ever one to read between the lines, I figured there had to be a way to get out of chopping veggies and waiting for them to simmer into dinner.

After much thought, I decided to use a recipe my friend Mari developed. She calls it Tuscan Chicken Soup. I've cooked it for my women's group and my book club, and I've made it a few times for my boyfriend, who insists he could eat it weekly.

But taking this 10-minute cheat to a soup party filled with people who follow rules? How could I resist? So I threw together another batch. My friends mumbled positive comments. People ate seconds. And if recipe requests are any indication of hitting a home run, then this recipe fooled everyone.

I'll share it here, in case you need to wow a crowd without slaving away.

After the party, my boyfriend, thinking I love the art of making soup, gave me a huge, silver pot so I might continue soup-ing blissfully. Um, cheaters never win, do they?

Cheatin' chicken soup

2 to 3 quarts chicken broth (low sodium, if available)

7 ounces pesto sauce, from the refrigerated section of the supermarket

1 rotisserie chicken, skinned and chopped

1 can (15 ounces) white kidney beans (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed

A few handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped

Pour 2 quarts broth into a large soup pot. Whisk in pesto. Add all other ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Add more broth if needed. Serves 6 to 8.

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