This is a soup with two simple secret weapons: toasted bread crumbs and tiny pancetta cubes. It is simple and simply satisfying. It also is as perfect as a weeknight one pot meal as it is as a first course at an elegant dinner party. It has a rustic Italian home cooked sensibility and modern flavor bomb sensations. Salty and silky, acidic and chewy, this easy to make textured dish is a family friendly and guest worthy addition to a home cook's weeknight and weekend cooking rotation. 
cuisine Italian
difficulty Easy
season Year Round
serves 4

Ingredients for the soup

  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock (recipe below)
  • 2 packages cheese tortellini, 1 pound each
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced into tiny cubes
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs (any mix of parsley, basil, thyme)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the chicken stock

  • 4 pounds chicken wings, bones, carcass
  • 6 quarts water
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 1 small onion, cut into large chunks
  • 1 herb bundle, (2 bay leaves, 4 sprigs thyme, 10 sprigs parsley), tied together with kitchen twine
  • 6 thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions for the soup

  1. Pour the chicken stock into a 4 quart pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Mix the herbs into the bread crumbs. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil toast over medium heat until golden brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reserve.
  3. Put the pancetta cubes into a small skillet and brown over medium heat. Drain on paper towels and reserve.
  4. Add the tortellini to stock and boil the pasta according to package directions. Lower the heat to simmer and squeeze in the lemon juice.
  5. Ladle the cooked tortellini among the soup plates. Sprinkle each bowl with 1 cup of spinach (it will begin to wilt immediately). Shave a generous amount of Parmesan over the dish, evenly distribute the pancetta cubes among the bowls, and finish with a generous spoonful of the toasted bread crumbs piled in the center of the bowl on top of a tortellini so they do not get soggy). Serve immediately.

Directions for the chicken stock

  1. Add all ingredients for the stock except the lemon juice to a large stockpot. Bring the stock to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 4 to 6 hours.
  2. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the lemon juice and salt.
  3. Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
  4. Refrigerate at least 8 hours. Remove the fat that hardens and rises to the top.