Ask my Midwestern husband what he wants for dinner and there’s a very good chance his answer is casserole. Most likely with several different kinds of starchy carbs. And I can’t deny that homey comfort food can taste amazing – carbs on carbs is simply unbeatable some winter days – but it doesn’t exactly fit into our usual rotation of healthy meals.
So when Kirk requested broccoli chicken casserole, this was my offering. It’s not casserole, it doesn’t have any condensed cream-of, but it does have chicken and broccoli and three kinds of cheese. Also it’s velvety and savory and downright amazing. When you get down to it, it’s really all about the cheese.
I can’t get over just how good this soup turns out, especially with such a short cooking time! If we’re being honest, I’ve long considered Panera’s broccoli cheddar to be the holy grail of cheesy soup perfection. This has the same flavor and delicious tongue-coating creaminess without feeling heavy.
I know that scooping this into a bread bowl goes completely against all my casserole-hating healthyish logic. But I’m not not telling you to do it.
If you’re not familiar with orzo, this is your golden opportunity to meet one of my favorite soup stars. Orzo, which is also called risoni, is pasta in the shape of rice grains. Not only does it cook much more quickly than rice, it also has twice the protein of brown rice. Major weeknight win!
Coconut milk gives this soup a really lovely velvety feel. You can always substitute regular milk, but I’d recommend whole milk to make it as creamy as possible.
I’m preparing to bundle up with a big mug of soup as Colorado heads into another weekend cold snap – stay cozy, friends!
Cheesy Broccoli & Chicken Orzo Soup
- 2 T. butter
- 2 large carrots peeled & diced
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 t. paprika
- 2 cups cooked chicken roughly chopped
- 2 cups broccoli florets roughly chopped
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup orzo
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shredded
- Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.
- Stir in carrots, onion, garlic, and paprika. Cook until onions are translucent.
- Add chicken and broccoli. Pour in broth and coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
- Add orzo and cook until not quite al dente, about 8 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Slowly add cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, stirring as you go so the cheese is completely melted.
- Serve hot with crusty bread or crackers.
Easy Vegetarian Option
- Omit chicken; double the amount of broccoli & carrots.
- Substitute your favorite vegetarian broth for the chicken broth – I love roasted garlic!