One of my 4-year-old niece’s favorite foods is and always has been soup. When I went to create a chicken soup recipe I immediately thought of her and what type of noodle she might like. The idea for chicken pastina soup came to mind - what could be more fun than little stars?
Although the pastina will appeal to a younger crowd, this soup has lots of complex flavor for the grown-ups, too. The lemon and dill create a lovely bright contrast to the rich broth and savory, tender chicken. It has a very Greek flavor profile, much like an Avgolemono soup (chicken soup with egg, lemon, dill and rice).
You could easily make this soup with chicken breast if you prefer. You could opt for a different shape of pasta or additional fresh herbs. I encourage you to try it as written first, though, and try not to be as in love with it as I am.
To make this meal vegetarian/vegan, you could swap the chicken for a can of white beans and the chicken broth for vegetable broth.
What You'll Need
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- Chicken Thighs I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. You could certainly use bone-in chicken thighs for this recipe too. Just be sure you give yourself more time for the chicken to cook. You can also use chicken breast here.
- Pastina Small, star-shaped pasta. You can also try other small varieties of pasta here. You could use orzo, ditalini, maybe even alphabet pasta if you want to keep this fun for your kids.
- Chicken Broth or Stock I used a commercial chicken broth for this recipe and it came out great. I love Better than Bouillon for this, or you could make your own homemade chicken bouillon powder! A homemade stock would be also amazing if you have it on hand.
- Leeks White and light green parts only. Be sure to wash these carefully as sand can hang out between the leaves.
- Fresh Garlic
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil This is a brand I recommend.
- Fresh Dill A small bunch would be perfect, or around 1 cup of dill.
- Kosher Salt This is very important! I recommend Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you use table salt or sea salt in the amount I recommend below, your soup will likely be too salty. Try adding just a small amount and taste as you go.
- Black Pepper I like using about 3 good cranks of a pepper in this soup.
How to Make Chicken Pastina Soup
- Sauté the vegetables
- Add the broth
- Cook the pastina
- Cook and shred the chicken
- Add the lemon juice and dill
- Make this vegan with white beans instead of chicken and vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
- Use chicken breast instead of chicken thighs.
- Add additional fresh herbs like parsley or basil.
- Try different shapes of small pasta - orzo, conchigliette (mini shells), ditalini, alphabet pasta.
- Use a bit of cilantro in place of the dill and lime instead of the lemon for a Mexican twist.
How to Store
This soup is quite good the next day or a few days later. Store the soup and pastina separately to avoid the pasta becoming mushy. The soup should be stored relatively quickly (enjoy your dinner first!) and moved to the fridge within two hours.
The soup will last for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. The pasta will last for about 5.
Alternately, you can freeze both the soup and the cooked pasta (again, separately). The soup will be best if consumed in 3 to 6 months. The pasta will last up to 3 months. Because the dry pastina lasts for so long and cooks so quickly, I recommend cooking it when you need it.
Reheat the soup on the stove or in the microwave.
How to Serve
This soup can definitely be a full meal. I recommend cooking the pastina separately, adding some to the bottom of the bowl and then ladling the soup over the top. This keeps the pasta from getting mushy in the broth.
We love having this with a hunk of French baguette or a piece of buttered whole wheat toast.
If serving a smaller portion, you could have this as a soup course prior to a larger meal.
You could make a half soup/half sandwich or soup and salad meal, too.
Recipes You'll Love
Other great cold weather favorites:
Chicken Pastina Soup
- 4 chicken thighs boneless, skinless
- 2 quarts chicken stock or broth
- 3 ounces pastina dry
- 2 leeks white and light green parts only
- 2 carrots large
- 2 stalks celery
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 1 bunch dill small, approximately ¾-1 cup
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- black pepper to taste
- Chop the leeks, carrots, celery and garlic. Keep the leeks, carrots and celery in fairly large pieces. Wash the leeks thoroughly - they can be sandy.
- Add olive oil to a pot heated over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots and celery. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until softened.
- Add the chicken broth and bring to boil.
- While the broth is coming to a boil, boil a separate pot of water for the pastina. It will cook very quickly. Once the pasta is finished, drain with a very fine strainer or sieve as the small shape can fall through the cracks of a larger strainer.
- Add the chicken thighs and let cook for 8-10 minutes, until the internal temperature reads 165°F.
- Remove the chicken from the broth and place on a cutting board. Turn the temperature down to medium low. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
- Using two forks, shred the chicken, removing any excess fat, and return to the pot.
- Let the soup cook at a low simmer (tiny bubbles around the perimeter of the pot) for about 10 minutes.
- Add the chopped dill and the juice from the lemon into the pot.
- Place ¼ cup or so of the pastina in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle some of the soup overtop. Cooking the soup and pasta separately will prevent the pasta from becoming soggy.
- Be sure to use kosher salt when making this recipe. Kosher salt will taste less salty than table salt or sea salt. If using table salt or sea salt, use significantly less (and taste as you go).
- You can use chicken breast in place of chicken thighs, here.
- Feel free to add other fresh herbs in addition to the dill, like basil or parsley.
- You can use other small pasta shapes for this recipe. Try ditalini, orzo or conchigliette.
- Stores well for 3-4 days in the fridge. Store pasta and soup separately to avoid pasta getting mushy.
- Soup will store for 3-6 months in the freezer. Pasta will store for 6 months frozen, but I recommend cooking when you are ready to serve the soup.