My Mother’s Chicken Escarole Soup

A family tradition, I have made this soup for Thanksgiving dinner going on 30 years.  It is inspired by the soup my mother always made for the holidays when we were growing up.  Over the years I’ve added a few extra touches that make it my own, and most recently it has been adapted to be gluten free.  This recipe serves a crowd so you will have plenty for your family dinner plus leftovers.  Of course, you can easily cut it in half (photos are for a half recipe) but I promise you are going to want leftovers!

Serves 20-25.

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  • 4-5 Chicken Leg Quarters (or you can use drumsticks and/or thighs)
  • 2 Sweet Onions
  • 1 lb. bag of Carrots
  • 1 bag Celery 
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 cup gluten free beef stock (optional but very good)
  • 2 cartons (32 oz.) gluten free chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. Sage
  • 1 tsp. Thyme
  • 4 Garlic cloves, minced
  • Generous pinch of Saffron
  • 1″ knob of fresh Ginger root, minced
  • 1 head Escarole, trimmed and washed
  • 12 oz. gluten free soup pasta
Get it here!


2 Days Before:

In a large stockpot brown the chicken in 1 tbsp. olive oil, about 5 minutes each side.  Do it in batches so that each piece gets evenly browned.  Remove chicken from the stockpot, pour out the fat and wipe clean.  Return chicken to the pot and add 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, and 1 medium onion, quartered.  Add ½ tsp pepper and 2 bay leaves.  Cover with water, bring to a boil then lower the heat, cover and simmer for at least 3 hours.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board or plate.  It should be falling off the bone tender.  Discard the bones and skin and chop the meat into bite size pieces.  Refrigerate the chicken in an airtight container until the day of serving.  Let the stock cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight.

1 Day Before:

Remove the stock from the refrigerator and skim all fat from the top.  Discard the bay leaves and all of the vegetables.  Strain the chicken stock through a fine mesh sieve, or colander double-lined with cheesecloth into a clean bowl or measuring cup.

Dice 6-8 carrots, 6-8 celery stalks, and one large onion.  Try to cut the pieces to approximately the same size.

In a clean stockpot, sauté the vegetables in 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add the strained chicken broth, and the beef stock (you won’t taste the beef, but it really does add another level of flavor to chicken soup).  Top with more chicken broth as needed.

Mince 6-8 garlic cloves, and all of the ginger root (about 2 tbsp.).  Add to the pot with one large pinch of saffron threads, 1 tsp. each of ground sage and thyme, and salt to taste.

Cover and simmer on low 2 more hours.

Remove and discard the outer leaves of the escarole, then tear the leaves into large pieces and rinse thoroughly.  To this day I can still hear my mother telling me to wash the escarole “leaf by leaf”.

When the soup is done, turn off the heat and add the escarole to the pot.

Escarole cooks quickly, and the residual heat is enough to wilt the leaves.  Stir well, cover the pot and let it cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate overnight.

Day of Serving:

Gradually warm the soup on low heat.  Ladle 1 cup of broth into a small saucepan and whisk with 2 tbsp. corn starch.  Once it has thickened, add the cornstarch mixture back into the soup and stir to combine.  Add back all of the reserved chicken meat to the pot.  Do not let it come to a boil or the chicken will shred into ribbons!  In a separate pan cook ¾ lb. of gluten free soup pasta such as orzo or ditalini according to package directions.  I was really lucky to find gluten free Acini de Pepe, the traditional pasta used in this soup.

Drain and rinse the cooked pasta and add it to the soup.  Taste to see if more salt or pepper is needed and keep warm until ready to serve.  Serve with grated cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

As I make this soup each year it brings back childhood memories of my Italian family gathered around the holiday table.  Start your own family tradition with this wonderful soup that is sure to become a favorite part of your special meal.

The Lazy Gastronome


Notes: ♪♫ Gluten free soup pasta is not readily available where we live.  If you are struggling to find a gluten free pasta for your holiday soup, here are a few links that I hope you find helpful!  Use what you have and don’t be afraid to improvise.  Whenever I buy gluten free pasta, I save the little broken pieces in the bottom of the box and use them for soup!

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6 thoughts on “My Mother’s Chicken Escarole Soup”

  1. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

    1. Many thanks Helen for the feature in this week’s What’s for Dinner party. I can’t help but think how proud my mother would be, as this was her recipe!

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