Alex Guarnaschelli's Trick For Adding Noodles To Soup Is Almost Too Clever - Exclusive

If you're dropping a whole chicken into your chicken soup to cook it, we applaud you. If you're making sure to follow that step with carving your chicken before it's done cooking, we're giving you a standing ovation. But if you're looking to take your homemade chicken soup to the next level, you have this clever tip from celebrity chef and Food Network regular Alex Guarnaschelli: In the last 10 minutes before you serve your chicken soup, throw in a handful of pasta.

"I think pasta is always a great way to get to a really satisfying meal quickly and easily," Guarnaschelli told Mashed in an exclusive interview. "And if it can be plant-based and I can make a healthy choice that doesn't feel like a compromise," even better. Guarnaschelli recommends a plant-based pasta such as one of the three varieties (elbows, penne, rotini) made by ZENB, a Japanese-inspired food brand. The brand's single-ingredient pasta is made from 100 percent yellow peas and nothing else (via ZENB).

"It's amazing, and it's an amazing product," according to Guarnaschelli, who has been collaborating with ZENB on a series of recipes ever since she started experimenting with cooking their elbow noodles at home. Guarnaschelli explained why plant-based pasta works so well in chicken soup.

The reason Guarnaschelli's noodle soup tastes so good

Gluten-free pasta can be a godsend for people with gluten allergies or sensitivity as well as a great option for those who prefer plant-based foods (via Healthline). But some gluten-free pasta harbors a secret that only those who cook their own will know, which is that it can go from al dente to mush in just seconds (via Simply Recipes). But plant-based pasta like ZENB, made from yellow peas, has something to offer soups that other gluten-free pastas don't, according to Alex Guarnaschelli. The executive chef of Butter and Chopped judge explained that plant-based pasta can offer "a cleaner, lighter starch." In other words, it's less likely to gum up your broth or leave your noodles disintegrating. 

So how do you know if the gluten-free pasta you're about to drop into your broth is the kind you have to worry about?

Here's when to add pasta to your chicken soup

The first thing you can do to evaluate whether your gluten-free pasta is going to maintain its texture in soup is to check to see how long the recommended cooking time is. If the directions on the box specify that a dry pasta takes three minutes or less to become al dente, that can be a worrisome sign based on the math alone (if your pasta can go from dried to al dente in under three minutes, imagine how quickly it can get gloppy). By contrast, ZENB takes up to 10 minutes of boiling just to get to al dente (via ZENB). Before it even begins to approach "soft," it takes another three whole minutes. 

"I actually dumped a bunch of the elbows into a chicken soup at the end of cooking it," Guarnaschelli told Mashed of her clever hack. "I made the whole soup and then I threw a handful of the elbows into the hot soup on the stove and just cooked it for seven, eight minutes, shut the heat off and let it sit." The result? "The pasta was perfect," she said. "And I was like, 'Oh, my god.'"

You can see more of Alex Guarnaschelli on Food Network's Supermarket Stakeout and Chopped, and you can get more plant-based pasta inspiration and recipes from chef Alex on ZENB's website.