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Thai Chicken Soup

I absolutely love Thai food! The layers of flavors and the spices are so amazing and there are so many naturally gluten-free options. One of my favorite things are the different soups. The flavors are always so distinct in Thai soups from the curry pastes, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, etc. I have wanted to try making a Thai coconut milk soup at home with all the fresh herbs and spices. With the lingering chilly weather, last week was the perfect time. The original recipe I found was a bit basic, so I added in mushrooms, fresh ginger, fresh lemongrass and jarred kaffir lime leaves (which I was very excited to finally find), I also went with a light coconut milk instead of the full fat version and I used more of it, I find it is still quite creamy and it has a bit less fat and calories. I also added a bit more broth, curry paste, fish sauce and noodles so I would have more leftovers for lunches and dinners on some of the busy nights we have this week. Don’t worry if you can’t find lemongrass or the kaffir lime leaves, the soup will still be really great even without them. The curry paste really has a lot of flavor. I just find that adding those extra fresh ingredients makes this soup more authentic. I know from eating a lot of Thai food that lemongrass can be a bit annoying to eat, since they are a bit tough to chew, so I decided to cut the stalk in large pieces so that I could easily pull them out just before serving.

Since we normally buy whole chickens from the farm we get all of our meat from, I just grabbed two organic chicken breasts from Wegmans, I honestly can’t tell you the last time I bought meat from the grocery store. Thankfully Wegmans has a great selection of organic and grass-fed meats, though it just isn’t the same as getting it from a local farm. You could also roast a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken and shred some of the cooked chicken and add it in to the soup at the end. This soup could also easily be made vegetarian/vegan with vegetable broth and by skipping the chicken or you could make a seafood version and add shrimp or scallops.

Serve the soup with lime wedges and maybe even a little Sriracha if you want a bit more heat. Enjoy, this soup really is incredible.

Thai Chicken Soup
serves 6
loosely adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb of sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons green curry paste (If you don’t like spicy, start with 2 and go from there. It seems some curry pastes are spicier than others)
8 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans organic lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
6 ounces thin rice noodles, broken into pieces
2 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts preferably local and hormone and antibiotic free (about 1 pound), very thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon kaffir lime leaves (I used were jarred, you can also find them fresh or frozen, use about 3 or 4 leaves)
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often until they begin to soften and get a bit brown, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Add a bit more oil if you need it and add the onion to the pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste, cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk and fish sauce; cover and bring to a boil.

Add the mushrooms, bell peppers and noodles and simmer, uncovered, until the noodles are al dente, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer until just cooked through, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in the lime juice, kaffir lime leaves and cilantro. Remove the chunks of lemongrass just before serving. Add more fish sauce and lime juice, if desired.

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Creamy Italian Sausage and Potato Soup

As you can probably tell from reading my recipes, we eat very little meat in our household. We aren’t vegetarians, but I would say we are mostly vegetarian. I consider myself to be a conscientious omnivore, I do eat meat occasionally, but only meat that I know where it comes from, how it was raised, what it ate, etc. At this point the only meat in our house comes from a local farm where it was all pasture-raised without the use of hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals. We have visited the farm, we have seen the animals and we have shaken the hand of the man who does it all. This is the only way I will ever buy meat for our home. It feels right. This fall we shared a pig with my parents. We have more pork that you can even imagine in our freezer. At home I would say we probably enjoy pork once or twice a month and chicken once a month. I have a good supply of this wonderful ground italian sausage that is unlike anything you can ever imagine. So tasty, sweet, subtly spicy and not too greasy, it is perfect. Without the ability to make patties and throw them on the grill (it is WAY too cold for that), I was trying to think of some winter friendly ways to enjoy the sausage. I thought a nice hearty soup would be perfect. I was torn between a tomato-based vegetable pasta sausage soup but then I thought something creamy and hearty sounded even better (though I plan to make that first soup soon).

This soup was really incredible, spicy and creamy with a nice green crunch from the spinach. The fresh herbs were wonderful, though dried will do if you can’t find fresh. I wanted it to be nice and brothy and wanted more servings so I used about 7 or 8 cups of chicken broth, you can certainly go with less, 5 or 6, if you want it to be a chunkier and less brothy soup. I also decided to go with half and half versus heavy cream to keep it a bit lighter per serving, but heavy cream would certainly be delicious and with less broth you would have a nice thick soup, just a bit fewer servings. Oh and the freshly grated parmesan cheese on top really sets this soup over the edge. It is the perfect finishing move.

*I am not at all crazy about the photo of this soup, it was hard to photograph with all the lovely bits, and I forgot to put the cheese on top for the photo, but you get the idea.

Creamy Italian Sausage and Potato Soup
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of ground Italian pork sausage, local, pasture-raised and free from hormones and antibiotics
6-8 cups of organic chicken broth, low sodium
5 small russet potatoes, washed and cut into 1 inch cubes with the skins still on
1/2 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup of organic half and half
2 cups of coarsely cut spinach
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. When the pan is hot add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion gets soft. At this point add the Italian Sausage and cook until its browned. Our sausage isn’t very greasy so I didn’t need to pour any out, if your sausage produces a lot of grease pour some off before adding the soup.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat add in the chicken broth, potatoes, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and bring to a simmer, allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

After the soup has been simmering add the sausage, onion and garlic mixture and cook another 5-10 minutes. After it is done simmering, add in the half and half and stir. Reduce the heat and be sure it doesn’t boil. Cook another 2 minutes. Taste the soup, add more salt and pepper to taste. More red pepper flakes if you want it spicier.

Remove the soup from the heat, add in the spinach and cover. Let it sit for an additional 3-5 minutes until the spinach is cooked.

Ladle the soup in your bowls and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese.

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Creamy Broccoli Soup (Vegan)

This soup was incredible! So much flavor and so very simple. It was a very quick throw-it together meal after we got home from the studio. I came across a recipe in Whole Living Magazine’s January/February issue where they featured their “28-day Action Plan”, a sort of cleanse / detox and fitness plan for the New Year. Their plan isn’t as limiting as the cleanse I am on, so I took this recipe and altered it slightly to make it vegan/cleanse friendly. The original recipe calls for chicken stock and shavings of fresh parmesan cheese, both of which I am sure would be delicious. I substituted vegetable broth for the chicken stock and left off the cheese. I also had Great Northern beans on hand and the recipe called for Cannellini beans, these worked just as well. Since the recipe called for salt and pepper to taste on each serving it was nice as I could easily leave out the salt for mine and Mark could add a sprinkle to his, as he wanted.

The soup was so thick and hearty, the creaminess achieved from the beans made it impossible to believe there wasn’t a bit of dairy in there. The toasted pine nuts were the perfect addition to complete this soup, those little guys have so much flavor and when toasted they just explode with taste. To top it all off, this dish is loaded with fiber and is very low in fat and calories. It took about 30 minutes to make from start to finish. This soup is very thick, which I loved, I actually ended up adding in a bit more vegetable broth than the recipe called for, if you like a thinner soup you could certainly add more stock to get the consistency to your liking. This really was a complete meal in a bowl and not only cleanse friendly, but hubby approved, too. (Though he couldn’t resist putting a light sprinkle of shredded extra sharp cheddar on top) I am telling you, if you love broccoli, you absolutely need to make this soup.

Creamy Broccoli Soup (Vegan)
adapted from Whole Living Magazine, January/February 2011
serves 4

1 head organic broccoli (1 pound), cut into florets, stems thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 15-ounce can organic Great Northern beans, drained (Cannellini beans would work here as well)
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

Steam broccoli florets and stems until tender and bright green, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly. Reserve 1/2 cup florets for garnish.

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add beans and broth and bring mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat and add broccoli; puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish each bowl with broccoli florets, toasted pine nuts, and shaved Parmesan or cheddar cheese, if you wish.

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Avgolemono Soup

This classic Greek soup reminds me of both my Mom and my late Yia Yia (Grandma), this is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. The perfect dinner on a cool night or when you have the sniffles. My husband, Mark, swears this is an acquired taste, I have been trying for 7 years to get him to like it, but he just isn’t a fan of the lemon. I personally think the lemon is what makes this soup and the more the better. Growing up in a Greek family, this soup was a winter staple and definitely something I would beg my Mom for when I was feeling under the weather.

I find some soups taste good enough made with store-bought stock, if you don’t have time to make your own, this soup isn’t one of those. It needs homemade stock, made from scratch, cooked for a few hours. It’s the only way. Whenever we make a whole roast chicken, I freeze the bones for stock, I love being able to make my own stock. I usually go very simple with the spices on my roast chicken so whatever is leftover is perfect for making stock with. I personally prefer to make each stock specific for each soup I make, since most times the ingredients that I add to the stock varies to each recipe. 

This soup is a very simple to make, only a few ingredients. I like mine with a lot of fresh ground pepper and the perfect amount of rice. Too much rice and it isn’t brothy enough, too little rice and it’s just not quite right. Some people prefer orzo to rice, but I like the classic white rice much better. If it were possible, I would always have a fresh pot of this soup in the fridge, ready to be warmed up whenever I wanted it. Thickened with eggs and brightened with the lemon, there is really nothing like this. This is my family’s recipe and honestly, have tried other people’s Avgolemeno before and it just isn’t nearly as good, in my opinion.

Chicken Stock

2-3 quarts of water
Bones from a whole roast chicken 3-4 lbs (I prefer organic, free range and without hormones or antibiotics)
1 large onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper

In a large stockpot, (use the strainer that fits in your stock pot if you have one) combine all the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam that forms on the surface. I added a bit more water as it was cooking to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. The longer you cook the stock, the stronger the flavor will be, but 2 1/2 hours was more than adequate and the stock had a fantastic flavor to it.

Remove the meat and bones and reserve, any meat on the bones can be separated and added back to the soup. If you didn’t use the strainer when making the stock, strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and other bits and add back to the pot. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Use the stock immediately or let the stock cool completely, and refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat that forms on the surface. Keep refrigerated in airtight containers until ready to use, up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Since I was using the stock immediately, I skimmed any visible fat off the top, made sure that it was strained of everything, and kept it on a low heat while I prepped everything for the soup. You will probably end up with about 48 ounces of stock when making it homemade (give or take). Use all of it.

Avgolemono Soup
serves 4-6

6 cups homemade chicken stock*
1/2 cup rice
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs
juice from 2 lemons

Bring the stock to a boil, stir in rice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until peaks form. Add in the egg yolks, stir until well blended. Add lemon juice, barely mix, just enough to combine (you don’t want to break the whites).

Slowly ladle the hot soup into your egg mixture until the mixture is warm, stir constantly. You want to do this slowly so as not to cook the eggs to fast. Pour the mixture back into the pot of soup very gently. Taste the soup, salt and pepper to your liking. Ladle into large soup bowls with a lemon wedge on the side, top with freshly ground black pepper.

*If you absolutely must use store-bought chicken stock, you most definitely can. The soup is still very good.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Roast Garlic, White Beans and Kale

On Saturday, Mark and I took our nephew, Noah, apple picking at Becker Farms in Gasport, New York. It was the perfect Autumn day and we had a super fun time (look for some apple recipes very soon). The weather was perfect, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the drive out was beautiful. I hadn’t planned a dinner for when we got home, so I was scrambling to figure out a perfect Fall dinner. Soup sounded delicious so I took some of the bones from the freezer that I had from our Sojourner Farms whole chickens that we made over the last few weeks. I also took a peek at the garden and noticed I still had an abundance of kale growing, so I came up with this soup with things I had on hand. Wow, it was not only delicious, but the perfect end to the perfect October day. The wild rice has a beautiful nutty flavor, the roasted garlic is so tasty and not only does the “super-food”, kale, add a nice green color and TONS of nutrients to the soup, the slight crunch and flavor is the perfect finishing move.

You could use store-bought stock, if you don’t have any homemade on hand, but you may find you’ll want to add onions, celery and some fresh herbs to the soup to give it a bit more flavor.

Chicken Stock

4 quarts of water
1 fresh whole chicken 3-4 lbs, cut into pieces or 4 lbs assorted chicken bones (I prefer organic, free range and without hormones or antibiotics)
4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 large onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper

In a large stockpot, (use the strainer that fits in your stock pot if you have one) combine all the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam that forms on the surface. I added a bit more water as it was cooking to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. The longer you cook the stock, the stronger the flavor will be, but 2 1/2 hours was more than adequate and the stock had a fantastic flavor to it.

Remove the meat and bones and reserve, the meat can be separated and added back to the soup, used for chicken salad, etc. I prefer to add it back to the soup. If you didn’t use the strainer when making the stock, strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and other bits and add back to the pot. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Use the stock immediately or let the stock cool completely, and refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat that forms on the surface. Keep refrigerated in airtight containers until ready to use, up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Since I was using the stock immediately, I skimmed any visible fat off the top, made sure that it was strained of everything, and kept it on a low heat while I prepped everything for the soup.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Roast Garlic, White Beans and Kale
Serves 6-8

8 cups of homemade chicken stock
1 whole head of organic garlic
1 cup organic wild rice
1 15 ounce can of organic white beans, drained. (I used cannellini)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 large bunch of kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
salt
freshly ground black pepper

While your stock is simmering, preheat your oven to 400°F.

Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Wrap the entire head tightly in aluminum foil. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cloves feel soft. Allow the garlic to cool slightly.

Once your stock is ready, the bones have been removed and it has been strained, add back in any chicken that you’d like in the soup. After the garlic is cool enough to touch, take each clove of garlic from the head and squeeze it over a small bowl, removing the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins, or cutting it out. Add all of the roasted garlic to the soup. Stir to combine.

Add 1 cup of wild rice to the stock, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Add the beans and kale. Stir and allow the kale to wilt, about 5 to 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!

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This is a VERY thrown together version of traditional Pho, though there is little that is traditional about my version. Traditional Pho (pronounced “phuh”), is a staple of Vietnamese cuisine and culture. A hearty soup usually made with a clear beef or chicken broth that includes rice noodles and distinct flavors such as cinnamon, star anise, clove, basil, lime and more. There are many, many variations to this dish and it is often eaten as breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Last night, I had a head full of congested sinuses, wasn’t feeling so hot and I just wanted something hot, spicy and brothy. Pho was all I could think of, but I didn’t want to leave the house. I had to make it with what I had on hand in the refrigerator and pantry. I would have preferred to have included some tofu, star anise, bean sprouts and thicker more traditional rice noodles, but I made do with what I had. Mine was much thicker than traditional Pho is, since I cooked my rice noodles right in the broth, but the flavors were there, none the less. I have to say, it turned out pretty good, considering it was thrown together. Which is why I decided to share my faux recipe, to show you that you can always come up with something quick and fresh with what you have on hand.

Making this faux Pho, however has made me realize that I would really like to make a full on pot of traditional Pho very soon.

Vegetarian Faux Pho
Serves 2-4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeds and stem removed, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon cinnamon (I used ground because I didn’t have sticks)
1/2 tablespoon cloves (I used ground because I didn’t have whole cloves)
6 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use low sodium, gluten-free Tamari)
2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
8 ounces rice noodles (all I had on hand was gluten-free rice spaghetti)
1 lime, cut into wedges
cilantro
scallions, sliced
sriracha chili paste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add onions, shallots, garlic, jalapeño, ginger, cinnamon and cloves, stirring occasionally until the vegetables turn clear and start to char a bit. Add the stock, soy sauce, basil and a squeeze or two of sriracha and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for about 25 minutes.

You can cook the rice noodles separately or if you are lazy like I was, just toss them right into the broth and cook them in there. By cooking the noodles in the broth, it made the broth very, very thick, but I didn’t care, I wanted fast and easy. I added the noodles, brought it to a boil then lowered the heat to medium-high and simmered until the noodles were cooked. About 10 minutes.

Ladle the broth and scoop a bunch of noodles out into large soup bowls. Serve topped with scallions, cilantro, a squeeze or two of lime juice and if you want it more spicy a bit more sriracha.

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Yesterday morning, when I woke, I realized that what I thought was allergies the day before, turned out to apparently be an old-fashioned, end of the season, COLD. I had the sniffles and I was feeling off. I was also feeling guilty as it was a beautiful, warm and sunny day and I had a ton to do at the studio. For some reason being sick on cold and dreary days is much easier. I eventually realized it was far more important to take care of myself than to stay at work, so I left a few hours early, swung by the grocery store to buy supplies and headed home to make soup. I figured that, combined with everything else I was doing, was sure to make me well quicker. Now that I am eating clean, I am treating things like headaches and colds naturally, not that I was a big medicine person before, so I am attacking this cold with homeopathic syrup, vitamin C, cold care tea and zinc. I have to say, today is day two and I am actually feeling much better already.

I decided to make the stock for my soup from scratch, since there is really nothing like it. This is the first time I had meat in over 7 weeks, but chicken noodle soup was the only thing that I wanted, and I knew it would help my sniffles. Being that the chickens we ordered from the farm won’t be ready until mid-June, I settled on an organic whole fryer chicken from Wegmans and some good organic veggies, so it was perfect.

You can most certainly make this soup with canned or boxed broth or stock, but I am telling you, it just isn’t the same.

By the time the soup was ready to be served, a cold chill had come over the air, dark clouds moved in and the rain and thunder started. It was perfect soup weather. I started feeling better almost instantly and today I can tell that the cold is on its way out the door.

Chicken Stock

4 quarts of water
1 fresh whole chicken 3-4 lbs, cut into pieces or 4 lbs assorted chicken bones (I prefer organic, free range and without hormones or antibiotics)
4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
4 carrots, halved (I kept the skin on, but washed them)
1 large onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 cup fennel, chopped
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon

In a large stockpot, (use the strainer that fits in your stock pot if you have one) combine all the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam that forms on the surface. I added a bit more water as it was cooking to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. The longer you cook the stock, the stronger the flavor will be, but 2 1/2 hours was more than adequate and the stock had a fantastic flavor to it.

Remove the meat and bones and reserve, the meat can be separated and added back to the soup, used for chicken salad, etc. I prefer to add it back to the soup. If you didn’t use the strainer when making the stock, strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and other bits and add back to the pot. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Use the stock immediately or let the stock cool completely, and refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat that forms on the surface. Keep refrigerated in airtight containers until ready to use, up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Since I was using the stock immediately, I skimmed any visible fat off the top, made sure that it was strained of everything, and kept it on a low heat while I prepped everything for the soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 6-8

4 quarts of chicken stock
chicken leftover from making stock or 2 chicken breast, already cooked, chopped or shredded
4 carrots, chopped
4 ribs celery, cut in half lengthwise, then chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced (you don’t have to use so much, but garlic is good for treating a cold)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
2 1/2 cups of gluten-free noodles
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped

In a medium-sized pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and sautée the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Stir occasionally, making sure they do not burn. After the onion has become translucent, but all the veggies still have a crisp, add the rosemary and tarragon, stir to mix the flavors.

Add the veggies back to the pot with the stock and bring the heat to a medium-high. Let the stock and vegetable simmer, until it comes to a gentle boil, continue to let boil for about ten minutes. After ten minutes, taste the veggies to be sure they are softening to your liking. Add the cooked chicken and stir to let all the flavors mix. Taste, then season to taste, I found it needed more salt and pepper and I added more tarragon.

At the end, add the gluten-free noodles. Make sure that you account for how much liquid you started with when deciding on an amount of noodles, if you add too many they will blow up and take in all the liquid. Cook the noodles until the are done, mine took about 10 mins or so, you want a bit of a bite to them. Ladle into bowls, add a sprinkle of your favorite salt, fresh ground pepper and top with some chopped fresh chives. I love a small sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano over the top, as well. Enjoy.

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