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Folklore tells us that what has come to be known as Italian Wedding Soup began as a dish traditionally served to the bride and groom at their wedding reception. However, that story is not exactly true. Italian Wedding Soup gained its name, not from the occasion that might bring it to the table but rather from the harmony of its ingredients. The name of the dish in English, “wedding soup”, actually means “married soup” (minestra maritata) in Italian. The modern Americanized version of wedding soup is a far lighter dish than the original, which was a rib-sticking dish intended as the main (and sometimes only) meal of the day. The Italian Wedding Soup history also has ties with America, where it was brought here by the Neapolitan immigrants. In Italy, the soup went out of fashion around the time the immigrants took their recipe with them to America. There are many, many versions of this soup. Below is my version of the dish and the one my family loves. This soup tastes better if made a day ahead.

Italian Wedding Soup

For the meatballs:

1 pound lean ground chicken
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 medium stalks celery with leaves, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
12 cups chicken broth
1 cup small pasta, such as ditalini
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.

For the meatballs:

Place the ground chicken, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, Parmesan, cream, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
Form 1 inch balls (I use a small cookie scoop) and drop the meatballs onto the prepared pan They don’t have to be perfectly round. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

For the soup:

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the Italian seasoning and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan.

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To make really good tasting chicken soup, you need a rich tasting broth. I usually start with the remains of a whole 4 lb chicken that I have either cooked on the grill or in the oven. Remove as much meat as you can, reserve 2-3 cups for the soup and use the remainder of the chicken meat for other dishes. To make the broth even richer, roast the chicken bones in the oven.

Place an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven; preheat to 450°F. Spread the bones in a large roasting pan and place the pan in the oven on the lower rack and roast the bones until deeply brown, 45-60 minutes. Transfer the bones to a Dutch Oven or soup pot. Spoon the fat from the juices in the roasting pan and discard. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. When browned bits begin to sizzle, pour in 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour into the pot with the roasted bones.

Add the following:

2 scrubbed carrots, cut in half
1 onion quartered or 1 bunch of scallions
2 celery stalks, cut in thirds
1 large garlic clove, peeled
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 peppercorns
1 large bay leaf

Directions

Add these ingredients to the stockpot with the roasted bones and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours.

Remove and discard the large bones and vegetable pieces. Strain the stock in a fine mesh colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth.

Discard the vegetables and bones. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to the souppot.

You can add more seasoning later depending on how you will use the stock. You now have a clear, flavorful stock to make some great soups.

Below are recipes for some of my favorite chicken soups:

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 medium poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup celery, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup chopped orange or yellow bell pepper
1 cup sweet onion, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
8 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
14 oz container chopped tomatoes, no sugar or salt added
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
2 cups okra, trimmed and sliced into ½ inch rounds
3 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
Toasted tortilla strips (see recipe below) and cheddar cheese for garnish

Directions

Roast the poblano peppers over a grill or under the broiler. Cool and remove the skin. Chop and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch Oven and add the garlic, celery, onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper.

Cook over low heat until tender.

Add the chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir well. Add the chicken broth and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Add the green beans,okra, plum tomatoes and diced poblano peppers.

Lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the cooked chicken and heat.

Serve with toasted tortilla strips and cheddar cheese as a topping for the soup.

Baked Tortilla Strips

8 corn tortillas (6 inch)

Heat the oven to 450°F. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray. Cut each tortilla into thin strips; place in a single layer on cookie sheets. Bake about 6 minutes or until crisp but not brown; cool and use to add to the soup.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
7 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
6 cup homemade chicken broth, recipe above
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup cooked noodles, optional
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)

Directions

Add the oil to the soup pot and heat over low heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until softened.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and parsley.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more or until the carrots and celery are almost softened.

Add the broth and chicken mixture to the vegetables in the soup pot.

Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add cooked noodles, if using and extra cooked chicken, if desired.

Italian Escarole Bean Soup

Ingredients

½ yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 cups chicken broth, recipe above
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup diced, cooked spicy Italian sausage
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender.

Add the Italian seasoning, the drained cannellini beans and the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the sausage, salt and escarole.

Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese.

Tortellini Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
1 piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Remove stems and wilted leaves on the greens. Wash well in several changes of cold water and chop.

In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the water, broth, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese rind and salt and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until al dente, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the cooked tortellini.

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.


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Rome covers almost one-third of the Lazio region and is the capital of Italy. Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome around 753 BC, the area has been inhabited for much longer according to historians, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe.

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Rome covers almost one-third of the Lazio region and is the capital of Italy. Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome around 753 BC, however, the area has been inhabited for much longer, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe.

After the fall of the Western Empire, which marked the beginning of the Middle Ages, Rome gradually came under the political control of the Papacy and continued under their rule until 1870.

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Rome was a major world center of the Renaissance, second only to Florence, and was profoundly affected by the movement. A masterpiece of Renaissance architecture in Rome is the Piazza del Campidoglio by Michelangelo. During this period, the great aristocratic families of Rome used to build opulent dwellings like the Palazzo del Quirinale (now seat of the President of the Italian Republic), the Palazzo Venezia, the Palazzo Farnese, the Palazzo Barberini, the Palazzo Chigi (now seat of the Italian Prime Minister), the Palazzo Spada, the Palazzo della Cancelleria, and the Villa Farnesina.

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Many of the famous city’s squares – some huge, majestic and often adorned with obelisks, got their present design during the Renaissance and Baroque. The principal ones are Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Venezia, Piazza Farnese, Piazza della Rotonda and Piazza della Minerva. One of the most best examples of Baroque art is the Fontana di Trevi by Nicola Salvi. Other notable 17th-century baroque palaces are the Palazzo Madama, now the seat of the Italian Senate and the Palazzo Montecitorio, now the seat of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy.

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Public parks and nature reserves cover a large area in Rome, and the city has one of the largest areas of green space among European capitals. The most notable part of this green space is represented by the large number of villas and landscaped gardens created by the Italian aristocracy. While most of the parks surrounding the villas were destroyed during the building boom of the late 19th century, some of them remain. The most notable of these are the Villa Borghese, Villa Ada, and Villa Doria Pamphili. In the area of Trastevere the Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) is a cool and shady green space. The old Roman hippodrome (Circus Maximus) is another large green space: it has few trees, but is overlooked by the Palatine and the Rose Garden (‘roseto comunale’). The Villa Borghese garden is the best known large green space in Rome, with famous art galleries among its shaded walks. Overlooking Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps are the gardens of Pincio and Villa Medici.

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Rome is a city famous for its numerous fountains, built in all different styles, from Classical and Medieval, to Baroque and Neoclassical. The city has had fountains for more than two thousand years, and they have provided drinking water in the past.

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Rome has an extensive amount of ancient catacombs, or underground burial places under or near the city, of which there are at least forty, some discovered only in recent decades.

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Experience Rome via this entertaining video from Travel & Leisure: ROMA

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Much of Rome’s cuisine comes from traditions that were based on poverty: people ate what they could get their hands on, the stuff the wealthy considered inedible and tossed away. In fact, many of the foods Romans today consider “Roman” are in fact based on old Jewish Roman cuisine.

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Artichokes – are thistles and were not considered a very edible plant long ago. Ox-tail stew – is the leftover from a larger, meatier animal. Zucchini flowers – are the part of the vegetable you threw away. Today, you find zucchini flowers everywhere in Roman cuisine, and it’s considered a delicacy: pizza topped with zucchini flowers, stuffed zucchini flowers and spaghetti and clams with zucchini flowers are some classic examples of typical Roman foods.

The quinto quarto refers to all the parts of an animal that are not considered “meat”: tripe, intestines, brains etc. This is also called “offal” and for those who love it, know where to get the best of it in Rome.

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Fried appetizers are popular and include stuffed zucchini flowers (fiori di zucca), stuffed fried olives (olive ascolane), potato croquettes, other fried vegetables and battered and fried salted cod (baccalà.)

Bruschetta, topped with either tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil, with some garlic or basil, or topped with a spread, such as artichokes, olives or truffles.

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Pasta in Rome is typically long, such as spaghetti, fettucine, tagliatelle or tagliolini; or short dried pasta such as farfalle (little bow ties), rigatoni or penne. Typical Roman pastas are amatriciana, cacio e pepe, gricia and carbonara.

Soups (minestre), often of legumes and grains. For example “zuppa di farro” is a vegetarian soup made with spelt, a thick chewy grain. Another classic is “minestra di ceci e vongole”, which is a soup of chickpeas and clams (other shellfish are used as well.)

Meat dishes in Rome are mostly beef, pork and lamb. But especially beef. One classic Rome dish is beef straccetti, which are thin strips of beef, slowly cooked in their own juices, and then served alone on a plate, served with parmesan cheese, arugula (rocket) or artichokes. You will also typically find beef served as a simple grilled steak, or as a “tagliata”, which means, a steak that gets sliced just as it comes off the grill.
A classic Roman meat dish is lamb “scottaditto”, which means, lamb chops served so hot and crispy, they burn your fingers.

There is a lot of pork in Roman cuisine and, very often, in pasta sauces such as amatriciana, gricia and carbonara. Two very common pork dishes in Rome are “porchetta”, a baby pig stuffed with herbs and slowly cooked; and “maialino”, which is very tender, slowly baked baby pig.

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Stracciatella (Egg Drop Soup)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 quarts chicken broth
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • Nutmeg

Directions

Heat the broth to boiling and set aside 3 tablespoons of the hot broth in a mixing bowl.

Beat 3 eggs in a separate bowl. Add the grated cheese and the bread crumbs.

Add the reserved 3 tablespoons of broth and beat until creamy.

Return the broth to boiling.

Pour the egg mixture into the boiling broth. Whisk vigorously with a fork to break up the egg into small strips.

Cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring continuously.

Remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour into serving bowls. Sprinkle with more parmesan and freshly grated nutmeg.

 

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Beef Tagliata Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tender steak, such as rib-eye or T-bone
  • Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 handfuls arugula
  • Small block of Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon cut in half

Directions

Lightly season the beef with salt and then place on the grill and cook for five minutes on each side, Remove the steak to a plate and allow it to rest for another five minutes.

Once rested slice the meat diagonally with a sharp knife into thin slices, drizzle a little olive oil over the meat and sprinkle with sea salt.

Arrange the beef between two plates. Place the arugula into a bowl and dress with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the leaves around and over the beef.

Shave the Parmesan into thin strips and sprinkle over the beef. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with a half lemon.

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Bucatini all’amatriciana

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 100 g or 3.5 oz. guanciale or pancetta (about ¾ cup diced)
  • 100 g grated pecorino romano (about ½ cup)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • One 14 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes
  • ½ tsp. hot pepper flakes, or more to taste

Directions

Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Put in a small handful of large-grain salt.

Dice the guanciale into medium cubes, about 1/2 inch.

Saute the guanciale and hot pepper in the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the fat becomes translucent, remove the meat and place on a paper towel to drain.

Add onions to the rendered fat and saute, stirring constantly, until translucent.

Add the tomatoes and the guanciale. Simmer on low heat about 5 minutes.

When the salted water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package states.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss in the sauce and add the pecorino romano, stirring constantly so that the melted cheese coats the pasta.

Remove from heat and serve immediately with additional grated pecorino for sprinkling on top.

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Roman-Style Braised Oxtail

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds oxtail, cut into 2-inch sections
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 28 ounces Italian tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • About 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves

Directions

In a heavy-bottom saucepot, heat the olive oil.

Season the oxtail pieces with salt, browning each side of the pieces. Remove; set aside.

Add the onions and a pinch of salt to the pan. Sweat the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and garlic. Cook 3 minutes more.

Add the oxtail pieces back to the pot. Deglaze with the wine over high heat, cooking about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes; bring to a boil. Continue boiling to cook off some of the tomato water.

Add the beef stock just to cover the meat, then the pepper and cloves.

Bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a circle of parchment paper, and cook for 4 hours (stirring occasionally).

Once the oxtail is tender, remove the pieces to a serving dish. Cover with aluminum foil; set aside.

Strain the sauce, pressing down on the vegetables to extract all the juices.

Skim all the fat off the top, and pour into a smaller saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, reducing by 1/4.

Taste for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the oxtail and serve

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Roman Pastries


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One of the best ways to cut back on wasted food is to use it in a new recipe before it goes bad. You will notice in the recipes below that I cooked several dinners in the past few weeks and, of course, we had leftovers. I don’t mind meatloaf reheated once or twice, but not more than that. Certainly, I can freeze meatloaf but there are more interesting things I can do with it, as well as leftover pork and chicken. Do you have a leftover recipe makeover?

Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Wine Sauce

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Becomes Pork Stroganoff

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped leftover Pork Tenderloin in Mushroom Wine Sauce (see recipe link here)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz wide noodles

Directions

Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and place the noodles on a medium serving platter.

Heat the leftover pork in a small skillet over medium low heat. Slowly stir in the sour cream.

Pour the meat mixture over the noodles. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Italian Style Meatloaf

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Becomes Meatloaf Panini

Serve these sandwiches with oven baked onion rings, pickles and a salad for dinner.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • 2 slices leftover Italian Style Meatloaf (see recipe link here)
  • 2 tablespoons spicy Italian peppers, chopped
  • 4 slices Provolone cheese
  • Olive oil

Directions

Layer 2 of the bread slices in the following way: a slice of cheese, a slice of meatloaf, 1 tablespoon of chopped peppers and a slice of cheese. on top of the each meatloaf slice.

Top with the remaining bread. Brush the bread with olive oil.

Warm up a large skillet over medium heat or heat a Panini maker. Place both sandwiches, oiled side down, in skillet or on the Panini press. Oil the bread on the top.

Close the Panini press and follow the directions for your machine.

If using a skillet, cook the sandwich for a few minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.

Turn the sandwiches over and press down firmly with a spatula on the top of the bread to compress the sandwiches. Cook until golden brown.

Grilled Chicken Breasts

(See recipe here)

Becomes Leftover Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Small Batch Chicken Broth

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Being a frugal Italian cook, nothing gets wasted in my kitchen. The chicken breasts I grilled last week were large, so we did not eat all the chicken. I removed the chicken that was left from the bones and reserved it for the Caesar Salad recipe. I also find that some recipes call for a small amount of chicken broth. The breast bones that were left can solve that need.

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Small Batch Chicken Broth

Ingredients

  • 2 leftover chicken breast bones
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • Celery top
  • Small carrot
  • Small garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Few peppercorns

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cover the ingredients with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for one hour.

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Strain the broth and pour into half cup containers. Freeze for future use.

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Leftover Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Ingredients

  • Leftover chicken cut into cubes
  • 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup croutons
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

Combine the anchovy paste, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce to a small bowl and stir together.

Gradually whisk in the olive oil, whisking until the dressing is emulsified.

Place the chopped lettuce in a bowl and toss it with the dressing, cubed chicken and croutons. Add shaved Parmesan and fresh black pepper. Toss and serve.

 



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