Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

This delicious soup is one I get fairly often when we go to Olive Garden.   There are copycat recipes all over the internet and all pretty much the same… so I decided to try it.
Most recipes call for half and half.. and if you know anything about my blog .. you know I use fat free half and half in a lot of recipes… so I decided to try and cut the fat down by using it… I don’t think you can tell the difference from the real deal.. so that part is a win-win right off the bat.
When I have the soup at the restaurant it really isn’t what I would call “loaded” with veggies.. it’s a light mix of them… so my advice to you is to consider a couple of things when you make it…  first of all… are you serving it as a soup before a meal? … if you are.. then go lighter on the celery, onions and carrots.
If you are serving it as the main meal (we had it as a soup and bread night supper) then by all means add it all in.
Take into account your personal tastes… if you love spinach … pile it in… nothing says you have to make it exactly like the restaurant does… after all… that’s one of the perks of making it yourself.
Make sure you sauté the celery well… otherwise it tends to be quite crunchy in the soup… unlike other soups that you simmer for quite a while.. this soup comes together fairly quickly so it doesn’t give the celery a chance to soften while the soup cooks.  I like to add the celery in to sauté first then after about 7 or 8 minutes, I add the onions, they soften after only a few minutes.
The butter and olive oil mixture you use to sauté in… has a reason to it… the butter for the taste and the olive oil tempers the butter so it doesn’t brown or burn when sautéing … I wouldn’t recommend changing those amounts.
Have no fear when adding in the spinach.. I know it looks like a lot… it will shrink down unbelievably when it cooks in the soup.
I bought shredded carrot in the produce section of the grocery store… I like to use it on salads… and it worked perfectly in this soup.. save yourself the work… it’s not expensive and well worth the purchase.
I used a rotisserie chicken that I bought already made in the grocery store… a great time saver and it added a nice roasted flavor… if you want more roasted flavor to the soup.. add large pieces of the skin in while making the soup … then remove it when you are ready to serve it. 
Here again.. if you want a heartier soup.. add more diced chicken.
I used chicken stock… it has a heartier flavor than broth… but you can use broth instead if you prefer.
You can find gnocchi in the pasta section in the grocery store.
When adding the half and half… add the lower amount first… then add more later until you get the consistency you prefer… if it does get too thick for you… simply add a little more stock.  The soup is not supposed to be very thick.. in fact for a cream soup it’s quite runny.
I hope you enjoy this soup as much as we did!

Recipe:  Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi Soup
All you need:
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ to 1 cup onion, finely diced *See TIPS
1 to 2 stalks celery, finely diced *See TIPS
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup flour
3-4 cups fat free half and half *See TIPS
4 cups chicken stock
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 cup shredded carrot *See TIPS
1 cup fresh spinach (stems removed), coarsely chopped
1-2 cups rotisserie chicken, diced *See TIPS
1 pkg (about 16 ounces) ready to use gnocchi
Chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste
All you have to do:
In a large soup pot, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the celery and sauté for about 7 minutes (do not let it brown… lower the heat if necessary.
Add the onions and garlic, cook until they are soft and translucent.  Add the flour and stir it in, cook for about 2-3 minutes to cook off the flour taste.  Whisk in the half and half slowly until the mixture is smooth.  Cook until thickened.  Slowly add the chicken stock and whisking until smooth. 
 Add the carrots (so they cook completely while the soup cooks and thickens) and thyme.  If you want to add the large pieces of rotisserie chicken skin.. this is when you would do it … remove it before adding the diced chicken, spinach and gnocchi (see TIPS)
Simmer until thickened, stirring frequently.
When soup is thickened, add the diced chicken and spinach and gnocchi… cook for as long as the gnocchi package says to cook them (mine said 3 minutes).  Adjust seasonings, salt and pepper to taste.
Pour into soup plates and garnish with chopped parsley (if preferred).

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