chicken & spinach soup with fresh pesto

I never thought I would put pesto into a soup - but now I've done it ... and it's delicious. Turns out you don't need a ton of ingredients or sodium for a flavorful soup. It's pretty clear that I'm back on the soup train hard these days. 

One of the amazing things about my new job is that there isn't a free lunch every day. I say this is amazing because I feel like this will force me to eat healthier. My goal isn't to always bring soup to work - but it's winter and soup is really easy to transport especially given my vacuum sealer bags. Love those suckers.

So for this soup, I was not really confident about the flavor profile since it felt so easy and so few ingredients. But there are a few notes:
  • CHICKEN // You could probably tackle this a few ways. I think it was easiest to cut the chicken into small bites before cooking. This saved the step of cooking, removing from the pan, cutting, and then returning. One step is always better in my book.
  • PESTO // I made the pesto in this instance. But if you are looking to save another step, some dishes, or a few minutes - then feel free to just use some store bought pesto. Yeah, the flavors might not be as fresh but you just can't skip the pesto.
  • RED PEPPERS // The original recipe called for either red peppers or carrots. I went with red peppers because I had the perfect amount frozen from my summer garden. I'm always in favor of using these amazing home-grown veggies.

Here's how it goes.
  1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and chicken; cook, stirring the chicken frequently, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. 
  2. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in broth and marjoram; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add spinach and beans to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
  4. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, Parmesan and basil in a food processor. Process until a coarse paste forms. Take note, you don't need it to be the normal pesto liquid-y consistency. A paste is fine because it is going right in the soup.
  5. Stir the pesto into the pot. Season with pepper. Let simmer until you are ready to eat. I recommend serving with some tasty croutons as well. 
Shopping List
olive oil
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small bite-sized cubes
1 large clove garlic, minced
5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1½ teaspoons dried marjoram
6 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground pepper to taste
¾ cup plain or herbed multigrain croutons for garnish (optional)

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