Fond Memories from the Tantillo Kitchen

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

Tantillo Chicken Soup

Tantillo Chicken Soup

When I was a kid, I was always in the kitchen helping my mom prepare dinner—or at least asking her endless questions about it! I think she taught me to cook just so that I’d stop talking for a few minutes. Both of my parents worked until 5 or 5:30pm each night, and had a commute home, but most nights we ate together, and most weekends. Over my childhood, their jobs and commutes varied—so sometimes my dad was home first, and sometimes my mom was. Once I hit 13 or 14, I was the one home first, and would get dinner started on days when they’d be home a bit later—I’d make the pasta, or heat up the chicken soup we’d prepared and frozen, or put the potatoes on to bake. As I got older, I’d do more—or everything, when I wanted to try out the recipes from my 9th grade cooking class!

Three meals that I used to cook with my parents stick out in my mind: chicken soup, meatballs, and lasagna. While I have the “sick day” connection to Campbell’s Chicken Soup that so many of us have, nothing makes me feel better like my mom’s chicken soup, which I make giant pots of and freeze for the days when I’m just too sick to cook to this day. It’s full of barley, rice, noodles, and of course tons of chicken and vegetables, and is pretty easy—just a lot of chopping and throwing into a pot! Plus I always loved pulling apart the whole chicken after we brought it out of the pot, and sneaking a piece here and there. It’s a soup that stands up to freezing well, and is very hearty and healthy!

My dad’s family is Italian, so we have lots of passed-down recipes with measurements like “a coffee cup full of breadcrumbs.” My mom has always made my grandma’s meatballs—and shaping them to be baked was one of the things she had me doing from when I was very little. Spaghetti and meatballs and meatball subs were always a treat! My dad takes over when it comes to lasagna—and heaven forbid you interrupt him while he’s working! It’s quite a process—he refuses to use the no-boil noodles, so we end up with counters covered with carefully laid out cooked noodles on paper towels. I always loved watching as he made a batch of sauce, mixed up the ricotta, and layered everything in the pan—and LOVED the result. I’ve followed his example and make lasagna every few months—though I will admit that I cheat and use the no-boil noodles. In my defense, I live in an apartment and don’t have nearly the necessary counter space! Plus, the last time I made a batch I used ricotta and mozzarella that I’d made myself, so I think that makes up for the noodle cheat.

Cooking and eating together was always a great experience for my family—it gave us a chance to talk about our days at work and school, and to connect and learn from each other. Helping my parents from a young age taught me the fundamentals of cooking and nutrition, and about how rewarding making a meal can be–and those lessons have stuck with me to this day—whether I’m cooking on my own, hosting a “make your own pizza” party, or helping prepare holiday meals at my parents’ home. They’ll be cooking on Family & Consumer Sciences Day, December 3rd, as will I and many of my friends—I hope you’ll join us!

Tantillo Chicken Soup Recipe


5 ribs celery, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 onions, chopped

(1) 3-lb whole chicken

1 c. brown rice

½ c. barley

4 bay leaves

½ lb egg noodles

Fill a large pot about ¾ full of water, and put in all ingredients other than egg noodles. You may put the chicken in the pot first while you chop other ingredients.  Cook for approximately one hour, then remove chicken. Skim fat off of the surface of the soup if preferred. Let chicken cool, then pull chicken apart and return to the pot.  You may reserve one chicken breast for sandwiches or another meal if you like, or put all chicken into the soup. Once chicken has been returned to the pot, add egg noodles and cook for 20 minutes.

This soup is great with dumplings or a hearty bread, and with a bit of Romano cheese grated on top. It freezes well, though you may want to add a bit  of water or chicken broth when reheating.

One Comment on “Fond Memories from the Tantillo Kitchen”

  1. […] few years ago, I wrote a blog for Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) Day on my history with cooking and eating with my family. […]

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