When the weather is cold outside or you’re feeling down, this chicken pastina soup recipe is exactly what you need! This easy and delicious Italian soup has a way of making you feel cozy and warm even on the most frigid of days!
Unlike most chicken soups, this soup recipe is quick to make and uses simple ingredients.
This soup is also known as Italian penicillin soup because similar to a regular chicken noodle soup, it has a way of making us feel better. I’ve written about a regular Italian pastina soup recipe, but this recipe uses chunks of chicken that helps flavor the soup even more.
What is chicken pastina soup?
Chicken pastina soup is a simple comforting soup that is traditionally from Italy. It uses tiny pasta shapes, known as pastina. These can come in various shapes and names. Here are a few.
- Alphabet pasta
- Star-shaped pasta aka stelline pasta
- Acini di pepe or just pepe pasta (this is what I use).
- Orzo – although not as common, it’s still a great option.
I would not use anything larger than the list above. Even ditalini is not recommended. However, as I always say – use what you like and what tastes good to you.
Chicken pasta soup is different from other pasta soups like pasta fagioli, because instead of cooking the pastina separately and then adding them to the soup, we cook the pasta in the chicken broth.
In terms of texture and consistency, the soup should not be brothy, instead it should resemble more of a risotto than a soup.
But it’s not just using chicken broth for the soup – after all that’s what my normal Italian pastina soup uses; this soup uses actual chicken pieces, and less cheese.
All you need is a medium saucepan to make this soup!
Ingredients for chicken pastina soup
Here’s the list of ingredients that you will need. The exact measurements are provided in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Chicken broth. Homemade chicken stock or store bought broth will work.
Water. This is optional, but I like to use a little water with the broth.
Pastina. Tiny pasta such as the little stars or acini di pepe.
Cooked chicken. See my section later about using raw chicken.
Grated or shredded Parmesan cheese. You can use Parm or Romano cheese as well.
Fresh parsley. I like to use fresh parsley for this soup, but use dried herbs if that’s all you have.
Salt and black pepper. This is optional, but I recommend it.
Extra virgin olive oil. This is also optional, and used at the end of cooking.
About the chicken broth: I use a good chicken broth from the store instead of making it from scratch. This cuts down dramatically on how long it takes to prepare. Avoid all unnecessary herbs such as rosemary and thyme. Keep it simple with your basics.
About the chicken pieces; you can use left over chicken from roasted chicken, use rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, or you can use canned chicken breasts. It doesn’t matter where the chicken comes from, but instead that it is already cooked.
If the chicken is not already cooked, then cook it in the pan first. I will provide some tips further below if you plan on cooking your raw chicken.
How to make this soup
Here are the steps for making this easy chicken pastina soup recipe. Let’s get started!
Step 1. In a medium saucepan bring the broth to a boil over high heat.
Step 2. Add the tiny pasta to the broth and cook according to package instructions. For acini di pepe, (what you see in the images on this page), it’s 9 minutes over medium heat.
Step 3. When the pasta is half way done after about 4 minutes, add the chopped chicken pieces and stir. Continue cooking until the pasta is ready.
PRO TIP: You’ll notice that the pasta will absorb most of the broth. This is normal. If it absorbs too much, then just add a 1/4 cup of water and stir.
Step 4. Once the pasta is ready, add the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil (optional). Stir until it is blended.
Step 5. Place the pastina chicken soup in soup bowls and serve with some crusty bread!
Recipe substitutions & variations
Although this soup is delicious as is, here are some recipe variations you may enjoy.
1. This soup tastes just as good using leftover turkey! I recommend using chicken broth with lots of flavor.
2. If you prefer not to use chicken broth, try using bone broth or vegetable broth instead.
3. To reduce the amount of sodium in the broth (assuming it’s not homemade chicken broth), substitute 1/3 of the broth with water.
How to properly store and reheat
This recipe makes 4-6 servings, so unless you’re using it for a main dinner meal, you might end up with some leftover. The best way to store your homemade soup is by keeping it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. I do not recommend keeping it in the freezer.
To reheat pastina soup on the stove or microwave follow these tips.
- For the stove, place soup in a medium saucepan and reheat over medium heat until warmed through. Add extra water or broth to loosen the pasta as it will have gelled together in the fridge.
- If reheating the chicken pasta soup in the microwave, simply microwave it for 2-3 minutes in a microwaveable bowl. Add additional water to loosen the pastina pasta if needed.
Can you use raw chicken instead?
Yes, you can. However, we’re not making an Italian chicken soup. This is an Italian chicken pastina soup. The difference is that when making a chicken soup, you create your own broth or stock by cooking the chicken (parts or skinless chicken breasts) in a large pot of water.
Plus, you add in chopped carrots, celery and onion and some fresh herbs such as parsley and bay leaf and let everything cook for an extended amount of time.
When making a chicken pastina soup, the recipe is to be quick and easy. The little pasta shapes cook quickly and are easy to digest. Now if you have some homemade chicken soup, by all means use it for this soup!
To cook the raw chicken for the soup then simply cut the chicken into small pieces and cook it in the sauce pan over medium heat with some olive oil until it is fully cooked. The chicken should register 165F internal temperature.
Do not think you’ll cook the chicken in the soup itself because the soup only takes 9 minutes to make!
What to serve with this soup
Here are some side dishes that would go well with Italian chicken pastina soup.
Toast some authentic Italian fresh bread. Avoid garlic bread if your stomach is tender.
A nice Italian green salad is always delightful with soup.
Serve with some vegetables such as balsamic roasted asparagus.
Similar Italian soup recipes
If you like chicken pastina soup, then try these soups too!
Cannelini bean soup is a creamy soup that uses escarole lettuce.
Looking for another comforting soup? Try this Italian stracciatella soup recipe, aka Italian egg drop soup.
Another classic Italian soup is this easy winter minestrone soup. You’ll love it!
For more inspiration, check out these additional Italian soup recipes.
Chicken Pastina Soup recipe
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup acini di pepe or other tiny pasta
- 1 cup cooked chicken pieces shredded or chopped
- 1 tsp parsley chopped
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese or Romano
- 1/8 tsp salt and black pepper optional
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil optional
- In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. If using water, add a dash of salt.4 cups chicken broth
- Add the acini di pepe (or other tiny pasta) to the broth and stir.1 cup acini di pepe
- Cook according to the package instructions. For the acini di pepe, it’s about 9 minutes.
- Once the pasta has cooked half-way, about 4 minutes, add the cooked chicken pieces. Stir and continue cooking.1 cup cooked chicken pieces
- When soup is done, add in the parsley, cheese, and salt and pepper. Stir to blend.1 tsp parsley, 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, 1/8 tsp salt and black pepper
- Serve warm in bowls. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil if using.1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Do not be alarmed if the pastina soaks up the majority of the pasta water. This is normal and expected. You still want a little liquid, but not much. This should look similar to a risotto.
- Estimate ¼ cup of tiny pasta per serving, and 1 full cup of pastina for the whole recipe. Use 1 quart (4 cups) of liquid for each 1 cup of pastina.
- For a more brothy soup, increase it from 4 cups of liquid to 6 cups.
- To reduce the amount of sodium in store bought stock/broth, then replace 1 cup of broth with 1 cup of water.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this Italian chicken pastina soup recipe. If you have your own tips or favorite soups let me know in the comments below.