Season your chicken with plenty of salt. If you have a large enough stock pot, get it hot, and using a small amount of oil, brown the chicken on all sides. This is optional, but I personally like the deeper flavor it gives to my soup. When you’re done browning, fill the entire pot with water and place on medium heat. This soup is a marathon, not a sprint, and the slower you cook it, the better it will taste.
Clean and prepare all of your veggies- but save all of the scraps. These are going in your stock pot. Chop your onions, peel your carrots, and dice the celery. Save the diced veggies off to the side and throw the trimmings in your pot- carrot peels, the celery butt, even the onion skins. Do the same with your herbs: chop your thyme and parsley and throw the stems in the pot as well. Chop a few cloves of garlic up nice and fine, and cut an entire head of garlic in half to throw into the pot. This is a no waste type of recipe.
Let your chicken and veggie trimmings simmer in the pot for at least an hour. While this is happening you can chop up whatever other veggies you feel like putting in your soup- for me, it was Tuscan kale.
Cook your starches. I used beans and pasta in this soup, and I cooked them both separately. This ensures that each is cooked properly, and also makes leftovers taste so much better- soggy noodle soup is not the business. I cooked both the beans and the pasta al dente.
After about an hour, your chicken is fall off the bone tender. Take it out of the pot and let it cool until you can pull the meat off the bones. Discard the chicken skin and throw the bones back into the pot for about 30 more minutes of flavor development- if you have time. The longer you can let this stock go, the better your soup will be.
Strain your stock and clean your pot. Throw a tab of butter in and lightly sauté your veggies, thyme, garlic, and a good helping of salt. I like my veggies with a little bite, so this is my preferred method. Cook them as long as you prefer, and then add the chicken, stock, and your starches into the pot. I threw in the kale and parsley at the end, and once everything was nice and hot, you’re ready for dinner!
We ate our soup with a big loaf of crusty bread I picked up from the mercato the day before. Traditional Florentine bread is made without salt because in the Middle Ages, there was a heavy tax levied on salt, so bakers decided not to use it. A perfect example of the deep rooted, almost stubborn culture of Florence. I’m not sure why anyone would ever omit salt on purpose, seeing as it is readily available now, but who am I to judge another country’s traditions. Anyway, I smothered the bread in a few tablespoons of butter and a lot of crunchy sea salt. It helped a little.