Parmesan Chicken Pastina Soup
The coziest Italian Pastina Soup! This easy chicken and stars soup is so warm and soothing. We start with a homemade parmesan broth; add a few vegetables and star-shaped pasta, and you’ve got the best kind of feel-better soup!
This warm and soothing pastina soup is exactly what the doc ordered.
It’s so secret that I love a good soul-healing soup. And chicken and stars soup is something that automatically heals the soul. Maybe it’s the playfulness of having stars in your soup or the nostalgia of a childhood classic. And when you’ve made my flu-fighting chicken noodle soup one thousand times, here’s a new one you can add to your repertoire.
We’re adulting this classic chicken soup with homemade parmesan cheese broth – you know good things are in your future. I know that sounds complicated, but it’s exactly the same ingredients you need to make chicken broth, minus the chicken bones, and add a few parmesan rinds and some dried mushrooms. The mushrooms add so much extra flavor to this soup base.
If it makes you feel any better, I took the liberty of making this entire chicken pastina soup in one pot, so once you make the broth, strain it and start making the soup. You can even make the parmesan broth a few days in advance. It’s ideal for making over the weekend and popping in the fridge for a quick weeknight pastina soup dinner.
This is my take on Italian comfort food, and it’s gosh darn delicious!
Ingredients for pastina soup
- Butter: You’ll need both butter and olive oil. I use a bit in the parmesan broth, and the rest goes into the soup.
- Onions: You’ll need two of everything for this recipe! For the stock, you can chop the onions a bit larger; this makes it easier to fish it all out when you strain the broth.
- Carrots: You’ll need carrots two ways for this recipe. For the broth, I like to leave them in large chunks; for the soup, I usually do a fine chop to ensure everything is relatively the same size as the pasta once it plumps up in the broth.
- Celery: You’ll need to do the same thing as you would for the carrots. Rough chunks for the broth and a fine chop of the soup
- Dried Mushrooms: You can use porcini or shiitake mushrooms for this. Most grocery stores carry these in the international aisle (you’ll find porcini near the Italian ingredients and the shiitake near the Asian ones.)
- Herbs: You’ll need a fresh or dried bay leaf, and you’ll also need some fresh thyme. We’ll add this to the parmesan stock ingredients, so you get all the flavor without all the pieces floating in your soup!
- Seasonings: You’ll need your usual kosher salt and white or black pepper.
- Parmesan Rind: This is the backend of a block of parmesan. Many grocery stores these days will sell you the back only. I usually purchase a large block of parmesan from Costco and save the back for soups and stocks. It’s of my favorite ingredients for my pesto chicken meatball soup.
- Stelline Pasta: Stelline is the star-shaped little pasta I’ve used for this recipe, but small shells, acini di pepe, orzo, or any other tiny pasta shape will also work.
- Cooked Chicken: This can be a cooked rotisserie chicken. Usually, I get bone-in chicken breasts and roast them in the oven, shred and keep them on hand for soups for the week. This is a great way to always have cooked chicken on hand, and it doesn’t require much effort!
- A lemon: You’ll need both lemon zest and lemon juice. I love the added pop of vitamin c in the soup; it cuts through the richness of the parmesan broth a little and wakes up all the flavors. I like to add this towards the end so that it stays bright.
- Fresh parsley: I sprinkle some on top to finish, so it’s completely optional!
How to make the best pastina soup recipe
- Simmer the broth. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large stock pot. Add the chunks of onions, celery, and carrots and brown them off a bit. Then toss in the mushrooms, fresh herbs, salt, and parmesan rinds. Let the rinds stick to the bottom of the pot a little; this will help flavor the stock. Stir often through so it doesn’t melt entirely. Then drizzle in warm water, and stir and scrape the bottom of the pot. Then add the remaining water and let the soup reach a low boil of medium-high heat. You’ll want to stir frequently because the cheese will stick at that high of a temperature. Lower the heat and let the stock simmer.
- Simmer it, don’t let it boil. Let the stock hang out for 45-55 minutes or until it reduces a bit. You should see steam billowing off the soup pot but no visible bubbling in the stock. You may need to toggle between low and medium heat to get it right. Strain the stock when it’s done and set it aside. You can also let it cool and refrigerate it for 3-4 days before preparing the soup.
- Make pastina pasta soup. Add the remaining butter and a glug of oil to the same soup pot. Saute the remaining onions, carrots, and celery until softened. Add the garlic and give a few seconds to become fragrant. Then add the broth and bring it to a simmer before you add the shredded chicken and the stelline pasta. Cook until the pasta is done. I like to stir it often to make sure none of the pasta is sticking to the bottom; this is especially true if you use a cast iron soup pot. Taste and adjust the soup with more salt or other seasonings as needed. Turn off the stove, and add in the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Serve warm in bowls topped with more parmesan and fresh parsley.
FAQs about this recipe
Yes, any low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable broth will also work. You may want to let it simmer for a bit longer before adding in the pasta with at least one small parmesan rind. That will give it a much better flavor. You can also make homemade chicken broth and toss in some parmesan rinds if you’d like.
You can skip the shredded chicken if you’d like.
The recipe for pastina with eggs is a little different. You would need to use less broth so that it’s more like an orzo risotto than a soup.
You might also like these Italian soup recipes:
- Pesto Chicken Meatball Soup
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Roasted Garlic White Chicken Lasagna Soup
- The BEST Minestrone Soup
- One Pot Lasagna Soup
- 2 tablespoon butter, divided
- 4 cups hot water + 8 cups room temp
- 2 medium diced onions, divided
- 4 chopped carrots (2 in large chunks, 2 small diced)
- 4 stalks chopped celery (2 large chunks, 2 small diced)
- 8-10 (~.5 ounce) dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms, rehydrate in hot water
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
- 1 cup (8 ounces) parmesan rind, cut into 16-20 pieces
- 1 clove garlic, pressed
- 1 cup stelline pasta (or small shells, etc)
- 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
- Kosher salt + white pepper
- Zest of 1 lemon + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Parmesan + parsley, for topping
- PARMESAN BROTH: In a large soup pot, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add half the onions, chunks of carrots, and celery, and saute for 4 minutes. Add mushrooms, bay leaf, thyme, and cheese rinds. Let cook for another 4 minutes. When the cheese and vegetables start sticking to the bottom of the pot, start slowly drizzling in the hot water as you stir and scrape to help deglaze the pan. When deglazed, add the remaining water and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, stir and make sure nothing is stuck.
- SIMMER: Lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 50-60 minutes, stirring often to ensure the cheese isn’t sticking to the bottom. You should see steam billowing off the pot but no visible bubbling in the stock. Strain the broth, and set aside for now.
- SOUP: To the same soup pot, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil. Sauté the remaining onions, carrots, and celery with a pinch of salt for 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add 8 cups of prepared stock and bring to a simmer. Add the shredded chicken and pasta and cook for 6-7 minutes or as indicated on the package, stirring often to keep the pasta from sticking. When the pasta is done, turn off the stove, add the lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust with salt as desired, you shouldn’t need too much more. Serve warm topped with parm and parsley on top.
- Quick tip: The pasta will soak a lot of the broth as it sits, so don’t discard the additional broth! Keep it to thin the soup as needed.
- Parmesan broth: you can easily make the broth a day or so in advance to speed up the process the day of. You can also replace the parmesan broth with 8 cups of chicken broth and simmer with two large rinds of parmesan in step 3, but the flavor is so much better with the from-scratch parm broth!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 206Total Fat: 10gCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 3gProtein: 13g
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Parmesan broth IB: Food52