I was about to start this post by saying that that’s ziti in the photo and not penne but that wouldn’t really be accurate. Ziti is a variant of penne and what distinguishes it from penne is its size — ziti is a wide variety of penne. But then I realized why bother splitting hairs about pasta variants when I’m going to say anyway that you can use any pasta shape for this dish and it will taste just as great?
What I will bother writing about is the addition of a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste to what would otherwise have turned into another white soup. Because, oh boy, the tomato paste and Béchamel sauce combination turned this dish into something like a soup version pasta with tomato-cream sauce. Terrific.
I used carrot and squash for me soup; feel free to use whatever vegetables you prefer.
Chicken and pasta soup with Béchamel sauce
- Heat a heavy pan. Cast iron will work best but you can use any pan (make sure it has a thick bottom). Brush the bottom with oil. Drop in the whole chicken back (skin side down), the onion halves (cut side down) and the garlic cloves. Cook over high heat until the chicken skin, onion halves and garlic cloves brown. Flip and brown the opposite side. You’re mimicking roasting — all the browning results in caramelization which will give the broth a deep flavor and golden color.
- Lift out the chicken, onion halves and garlic cloves and transfer to a pot. Pour in enough water to cover. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Scoop out the chicken, onion halves and garlic cloves.
- Add the pasta to the broth. Cook for five minutes, stirring a few times during the first two minutes.
- Add the carrot and squash cubes (or whatever vegetables you’re using). Stir in the tomato paste. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Cook for another 10 minutes.
- While the pasta and vegetables simmer, pull off the chicken meat from the bones. Peel the onion halves and garlic cloves. Tear the onion into smaller pieces. Mash the garlic.
- Stir the Béchamel sauce into the soup. Add the chicken, onion and garlic. Stir. Taste, adjust the seasonings, if needed. Wait until the soup simmers then turn off the heat. Cover and leave for five minutes to finish cooking the pasta and vegetables.
- Sprinkle with snipped scallions, and serve with bread and butter.