I've been sautéing a lot of pasta recently. And the more I do it, the more addicted I become to the flavor. Much like cooking rice before adding water, sautéing brings out some incredible toasted aromas in the pasta.
The method is also a great way to spruce up very simple soups, including this one from Diana Kennedy's Oaxaca al Gusto. This is pure comfort food, but it's also one with a surprising amount of depth.
Now, I know the chicken livers are going to scare off a lot of people. That's understandable—and part of me thinks it would still work without them. But I like the little bit of funk they add. You'd never pick out the flavor, but they add a meaty backbone to each sip. Still, if it bothers you that much, just leave them out. The soup is flavorful enough to get by just fine.
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 7 ounces orzo pasta (or pasta de pluma)
- 1 small white onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 12 ounces canned tomatoes, finely chopped
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 4 large chicken livers, cleaned and chopped
- 4 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard
- 1 small bunch Italian parsley
Pour the oil into a large pot set over medium heat. When warm, add the pasta and cook, stirring often, until it is lightly browned, three to five minutes. Remove the pasta and drain in a strainer. Remove all but one tablespoon of the oil.
With the heat still on medium, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about five minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir well, and cook until the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour one cup of the broth into a small saucepan and bring to a bare simmer. Add the chopped livers, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the livers are tender but still a little pink inside, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside when done.
When the tomatoes have reduced, pour in the remaining broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the Swiss chard, the parsley, and the pasta. Reduce the heat to medium, season to taste with salt, and cook until the the pasta is cooked and the chard is tender, about 15 minutes. Add the livers and cook for an additional five minutes.
When done, discard the parsley. Ladle the soup into bowls, season to taste with salt, and garnish with croutons.