If you’ve been following The Café, even for a short time, you probably know that I’m quite crazy about cooking, baking, creating all kinds of concoctions, making jams and jellies, even grocery shopping. Just about everything having to do with food has me quite captivated.
You might also be thinking I’m an pro in all areas of culinary endeavors, but that’s not true. There’re lots of things in the cooking realm that I have no clue about, and I’m learning new tips and tricks all the time. One of the areas that I fall super short in is…turkey expertise. I’d be the first to admit that I’m quite inept in this area, but it’s for good reason.
Years ago when my children were still quite small, I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving in a super spectacular fashion. I bought a huge turkey and invited family, neighbors and friends for dinner. I set up several tables, decorated the house quite festively and spent hours putting together a wonderful meal. I went all out, and the whole effort was quite successful – but a sad thing happened along the way.
I spoiled my kid’s birthdays. Yup, my two children have birthdays on the 28th and 29th of November. I was so busy cooking, cleaning, decorating and just being in a tizzy that year, I didn’t have time to focus on them and their special days. And worse, I didn’t even realize it until it was too late and I couldn’t undo things.
That year I made a deal with my mother-in-law: “If you’ll do Thanksgiving from now on, I’ll be happy to cook for Christmas”. And that’s how it worked for many, many years. I’d help with the sides for the Thanksgiving table, but turkey and all the details were never my responsibility. She did a great job and we have lots of wonderful memories around Nanny’s Thanksgiving table.
The problem is, all these years later, I feel like a bit of a dimwit when it comes to turkey. Stuffing, trussing and basting are still somewhat foreign to me, but Thanksgiving has now become my responsibility. So I’m slowly learning the ropes, and this year it was in a BIG way. Really big.
We traveled to England earlier this month to visit our daughter and her family. We had a wonderful time, but didn’t return home until this past Monday, just three days before Thanksgiving. On Tuesday, I ran out to re-stock the empty cupboards and to purchase a turkey. I didn’t have time to run around town hunting for the perfect bird and when I saw there was only one left at Costco, I threw it in my cart.
The problem was it was 22 pounds and there were just six of us for Thanksgiving dinner! “Oh well!”.
“Oh well!” was not what I said though, as I dragged the huge bird to the car. “Oh well!” was not what I said when I searched for a pan large enough to accommodate the bird and “Oh well!” is definitely not what I said when I wrestled with the monstrous bird early on Thanksgiving morning, washing, seasoning and later, stuffing and trussing. In fact, if you’d been a little mouse in my kitchen, you probably would have laughed your fur off, as you heard me grumble, “Whose bright idea was this?” and “What were you thinking?”.
But guess what? The turkey turned out great. My son, Nick kept a close eye on the BIG bird as it grilled and slowly transformed to an amazing golden brown. It was super succulent and made a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, we now have LOTS of leftovers to make Turkey Pasta Soup. It’s an all-time favorite here at The Café.
My husband calls this “the ultimate comfort soup”; it’s loaded with classic homey flavor. It starts out with a sauté of shallots, celery and lots of sweet carrots. (I like to dice the veggies quite small for this soup; it’s not hard to do by hand, but when I’m in a hurry, I love to use this amazing chopper. I’ve had one for years and it makes quick work out of a huge pile of carrots, celery, onions, etc). Stock or broth is added along with bay leaves and fresh rosemary and the soup is simmered till the veggies are tender. The secret ingredient comes next; Acini Di Pepe. Have you heard of it?
Acini Di Pepe are tiny, round Italian pasta, commonly found at many larger grocers. Acini Di Pepe are often used in Italian wedding soups and are also wonderful in salads. For this Turkey Pasta Soup, the Acini Di Pepe are cooked right in the broth and add a magically delicious and comforting flavor and texture. If you can’t find Acini Di Pepe, pastina, Israeli couscous or orzo will also work, though our favorite is definitely the Acini Di Pepe.
In the final step, leftover turkey (or chicken) is added along with more fresh herbs. That’s it! In less than 45 minutes you’ll have a steaming pot of fabulous soup that no one will turn down. Wee ones love this one, and grown ups almost always request second helpings. The recipe makes a big pot, but I know it won’t last long at your house either. If there’s anything left, everyone will love having a bowl of this in their school or work lunch.
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- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup finely chopped shallots about 3 large shallots
- 3 medium celery stalks diced
- 8 medium carrots peeled and diced
- 12 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 medium bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon sea salt if you're using regular salt, start with a half teaspoon and add more, if needed.
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ¼ cup Acini Di Pepe pasta* You can also use pastina, orzo or Israeli couscous, also known as pearl pasta.
- 4 cups leftover turkey or chicken diced, rotisserie chicken works great
- 1 teaspoon each finely chopped fresh parsley rosemary and thyme
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or pot. Add chopped shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add celery and carrots and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the 12 cups of broth, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil then reduce to a steady simmer and cook, uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Remove bay leaves and add the Acini Di Pepe pasta. Stir and return to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 more minutes, or until pasta is tender.
- Add diced turkey (or chicken), parsley, rosemary and thyme. Stir well and remove from heat. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and allow soup to sit for 15 minutes before serving. This allows the flavors to meld.
* Acini Di Pepe are tiny, round Italian pasta, commonly found at many larger grocers. Acini Di Pepe are often used in Italian wedding soups and are also wonderful in salads. For this Turkey Pasta Soup, the Acini Di Pepe are cooked right in the broth and add a magically delicious and comforting flavor and texture. If you can't find Acini Di Pepe, pastina, Israeli couscous or orzo will also work, though our favorite is definitely the Acini Di Pepe.