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One-Pot Wonder: Chicken and barley soup with spinach and pancetta

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Step aside, chicken noodle soup — barley brings it for this warming meal

Not everyone has all day to create and cook a flavorful and comforting soup. If you’re one of those people, then this recipe for chicken and barley soup with spinach and pancetta is for you. You'll be amazed at how easy and delicious this dish is — it might even be better than Grandma's.

Step aside, chicken noodle soup — barley brings it for this warming meal

When it comes to soup (especially the chicken variety), barley gives noodles a run for their money. Barley is a hearty whole grain that is loaded with protein and fiber. It's chewy and filling and adds great texture to a chicken-based soup like this one.

This warming dish is super hearty — and super easy to make. Everything for this meal (with the exception of the pancetta topping) can be made in just one pot. Talk about convenient!

Step aside, chicken noodle soup — barley brings it for this warming meal

I love piling in the veggies for this soup. Beyond the carrots, celery and onion, I added spinach and mushrooms for richness and color. The crispy pancetta as its topping is a bonus you don't want to miss out on, so go ahead and break out a separate pan to make it. It takes only a few minutes to cook, and it's worth every bite.

One-pot chicken and barley soup with spinach and pancetta recipe

On a cold day, nothing beats a steaming-hot bowl of chicken soup. This recipe adds barley for texture and heartiness and a salty, crispy surprise topping for even more flavor.

Serves 6-8

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25 minutes | Inactive time: 5 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  • 1-1/4 cups celery, diced
  • 1-1/4 cups carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup quick-cooking (10-minute) barley
  • 1-1/2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, panfried crisp

Directions:

  1. In a large stockpot, melt the butter. When it's melted and hot, add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the garlic to the pot, and cook for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and water to the pot, and bring it to a boil. Add the chicken, and reduce the heat. Add the black pepper, stir, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, and add the barley. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes, partially covered.
  5. When 2 to 3 minutes of cooking time are left, add the mushrooms, spinach and thyme. Check to see if the barley is soft. If not, continue to cook for another 2 to 4 minutes. When the barley is soft, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let it sit for 5 minutes. As the soup rests, cook the pancetta in a skillet until crispy.
  6. Serve hot garnished with the pancetta.

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