This cozy, comforting Chicken Pastina Soup is also called Italian Nonna's Penicillin soup because it's known to cure just about anything that ails you! It hits the spot on a chilly day, for sure!
Although we have a ton of chicken soup recipes on our site, this Italian Chicken Pastina Soup might just be the most delicious and comforting of all. It's often called Italian Grandmother's (Nonna's) Penicillin soup because it's nourishing, soul-warming and absolutely perfect for anyone with the sniffles or who's feeling a little under the weather.
There are probably as many versions of Chicken Pastina Soup in Italy as there are beloved nonnas, each one having its own little variations. It's also often made without the chicken. This is my personal rendition of the beloved soup. If you're lucky enough to have an Italian Nonna, this probably isn't her exact recipe.
I love the idea of a heartwarming soup with a few veggies and a heavy dose of pasta (classic pastina soup) but wanted to come up with a recipe that was a little lower in carbs and more vegetable and protein-forward.
What is pastina?
Before we talk about this Chicken Pastina Soup, let's talk about pastina. It's not an everyday word here in the US but it simply means, "small pasta" in Italian. There are many variations of pastina, each one having a unique shape but all under a quarter inch in size.
I use Acini di pepe (tiny round balls pictured below) but other types of pastina include orzo (shaped like rice), stelline (tiny star shaped), farfalline (tiny bow ties) and many more. You can use any of them for this soup recipe.
Vegetable and protein-forward Chicken Pastina Soup
As I mentioned above, I decided to focus more heavily on vegetables in my soup than pasta, which is classically the main ingredient in pastina soups. My rendition starts with diced onion, shallot, celery, bell pepper and garlic which are sautéed in olive oil and a pat of butter. Next comes chicken broth and lots of diced carrots (a whole pound!).
The veggie/broth mixture is then simmered until everything is nice and tender. At this point, I scoop out 2 cups of the veggies with a slotted spoon then puree the remaining soup with a stick blender (or regular blender). The pasta comes next which takes under 10 minutes to cook to perfection. Lastly, the reserved veggies and a generous portion of rotisserie or leftover chicken (for lots of lean protein!) are added to the fragrant soup. I like to turn off the heat and cover the pot for 20 minutes at this point. This allows the flavors meld and marry and the pasta to absorb a bit more of the delicious broth.
While the soup rests you can grate some good Parmesan and chop up some fresh rosemary and/or thyme for a delicious finishing touch. Voila! A soup that will cure just about anything that ails you!
Italian Grandmother's Penicillin Soup
Yep, that's why this delicious Chicken Pastina Soup is often referred to as Italian Nonna's Penicillin Soup. In Italy, this soup is what's served when someone is sick. One spoonful and you'll understand - it's the ultimate comfort food!
I'm thrilled to have this recipe in my arsenal as it will be the perfect cold-season gift to take to anyone who's not feeling up to snuff. Even with the chopping, this soup comes together in under and hour and WAY less than that if you use my favorite little kitchen workhorse, the Vidalia Chop Wizard. This is not a sponsored post, I just love this handy little gadget. It makes super quick work of chopping all of the veggies for this soup.
I use my chopper all the time as it saves me so much time in prepping meals. A while back, I asked my daughter-in-law, Lindsay to create a video to demonstrate this magical little chopper. We named the video, "The Ridiculously Easy Way to Chop Veggies". Check it out:
A warm hug in a bowl!
Know someone who needs a warm hug today? Maybe it's you! Pick up a rotisserie chicken, a bag of pastina and any other ingredients you might be missing! Put together a pot of this delicious Italian Chicken Pastina Soup and call yourself "Nonna".
Cafe Tips for making this Italian Chicken Pastina Soup
- Most grocery stores sell some type of pastina (tiny pasta). Feel free to use any of them for this soup. Stelline pastina are tiny stars but also resemble little flowers. I use acini de pepe which are tiny little balls of pasta. Orzo is also a good choice although it's a little bit bigger.
- I use ⅓ cup of pasta for my Chicken Pastina Soup. If you're not worried about carbs, feel free to double the amount.
- When you first add the pastina to the broth, it will look like there's not enough since the uncooked pasta is so tiny. Don't be fooled! It will "grow" as it cooks and a bit more as it rests and you'll discover you have plenty.
- Pastina will have slightly different cooking times, depending on the shape. Go with the time instructed on your bag or box after adding the pastina to the broth.
- I use baby carrots for this recipe. I cut them in half length-wise, then pop a few at at time in my Vidalia Chopper (see video above) and the whole pound is diced beautifully in a flash. I use the ¼-inch grate for dicing all the veggies in this recipe.
- I like to use both fresh rosemary and thyme for a garnish for this soup as I usually have both in my herb trug all year round. If you just have one or the other, that's fine too. If you don't have any fresh herbs, a light sprinkle of Italian season will also work for garnishing.
- I like to add a Parmesan rind as the broth simmers, for an extra layer of delicious flavor. You can purchase inexpensive Parmesan rinds at cheese shops and specialty stores like Whole Foods. When I get to the end of a wedge of Parmesan, I like to throw the unusable rind into a ziplock bag and freeze it for recipes like this Chicken Pastina Soup.
- A Parmesan rind is not necessary but if you have access to one, by all means, include it. Just make sure to remove it before pureeing the soup.
- Don't skip the grated Parmesan garnish! I like Parmesan Reggiano from Italy but there are also good local Parmesans. Go with the best you can find and/or afford.
- Because of the large amount of carrots and the yellow bell pepper, this soup will have a sunny golden hue.
- This soup reheats well in the microwave or on the stovetop. If it's too thick when reheating, add an additional splash of chicken broth.
Thought for the day:
Now to Him who is able to do
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us,
to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large onion diced small
- 1 large shallot finely chopped
- 4 stalks celery diced small
- 1 large yellow bell pepper diced small
- 4 medium cloves garlic minced
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth maybe more
- 1 pound carrots diced small
- 1 parmesan rind (optional)
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt more to taste
- ⅓ cup uncooked pastina tiny pasta, double if you like a lot of pasta
- 2½ -3 cups rotisserie or leftover chicken
- grated Parmesan for serving
- finely chopped fresh rosemary and/or fresh thyme leaves
Heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot or medium heat. Add the oil, butter, onion, shallot, celery and bell pepper and stir to combine. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the broth, carrots, parmesan rind (if using) and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a steady simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes (uncovered) or until the veggies are nice and tender.
With a slotted spoon, removed 2 cups of the diced veggies and set aside.
With an immersion blender (or a regular blender) puree the broth/veggie mixture in the pot until smooth.
****NOTE: If you use a regular blender, be sure to let the mixture cool down a bit before blending. Also, remove the center cap on the blender top and cover it with a clean kitchen towel or several thicknesses of paper towels. This will allow the heat to vent and prevent it from building up.
Add the pasta, bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a steady simmer. Cook, uncovered for whatever the time on your bag or box of pastina instructs. (Acini de pepe takes 9 minutes.)
Add the rotisserie (or leftover) chicken and the reserved veggies. Stir to combine. Cover and allow the soup to rest for 20 minutes.
Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if needed.
Serve with grated parmesan, a scatter of finely chopped fresh rosemary or fresh thyme leaves (or both) and fresh ground black pepper. Enjoy!
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn’t have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.