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Italian Chicken Pastina Soup (Nonna’s Easy Recipe)

Nonna’s Easy Chicken Pastina Soup recipe is Italian comfort food at its best. This very simple recipe, is the perfect meal when the weather is starting to get cooler and you just want something homey and cozy.  Nonna (my mom, but Nonna to everyone else) loads the soup with chicken, vegetables and tiny pastina pasta so it can be a meal all on it’s own.  Serve it with a warm loaf of crusty Italian Bread for a meal that chases away the chills on a cold day!

A bowl of chicken vegetable soup with pastina.

Nonna has been making this soup for our family for years and we can’t seem to get enough of it.  Amazingly the soup is so good that you won’t believe how simple her recipe really is.  

Like Lentils and Rice soup and many other recipes from the “cucina povera”, this recipe calls for basic ingredients but creates a comforting soup with a flavorful broth. Best of all it is filled with tender chicken, vegetables and tiny pasta.  This is definitely one of the the kids favorite recipes.  We never have any problem getting the little ones to eat a bowl of Nonna’s chicken pastina soup!


chicken soup ingredients

The Chicken

My mom uses whatever chicken parts she has on hand, so no need to have a whole chicken to make this soup. She starts by removing the skin from the chicken.  This makes it less greasy, which means you won’t need to skim any fat off before serving the soup.  Don’t worry, you will still have enough fat from the chicken to create a rich chicken broth and flavor the soup perfectly.  With only about 245 calories for a 1 1/2 cup serving of this homemade soup, you can feel free to have seconds!

The Vegetables

Nonna’s recipe calls for the basic vegetable combination of carrots, celery and onion, but she also adds tomato to the soup to provide some added tang to the broth. Peel and seed the tomato and then it can be added whole or in big chunks. You can also use canned whole tomatoes if you like.

Two measuring cups filled with pastina and a box of Barilla pastina.

The Pastina

We usually serve Nonna’s homemade chicken soup with pastina, acini de pepe, or alphabet pasta which are all very small pasta shapes.  Pastina is usually in the shape of tiny pasta stars or “stelline pasta” and Acini de Pepe is a small round shaped pasta.  Either of these pasta shapes are perfect for the little ones.  Of course you can use any pasta shape you like but the smaller pastas work best since you eat soup with a spoon.  But if you love spaghetti, just take a handful of it and break it into 1-2″ inch pieces.  Now you can eat spaghetti with a spoon!

How to Make Nonna’s Chicken Pastina Soup

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large soup pot. Add the chicken, vegetables, bouillon, salt and black pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue to boil slowly for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Cook the pastina in a separate pot of water.
  3. Remove the chicken from the soup, remove the meat from the bones and break it up into small pieces, then add it back to the soup.
  4. When the pastina is done, drain almost all of the water out. Place a ladle of cooked pastina in a bowl and top it with a ladle or more of soup. Serve with grated parmesan cheese or pecorino romano cheese if desired
4 photos one of vegetables cooking in a pot of water, one of cut up cooked chicken, one of drained pastina in a pan and one of a bowl of  chicken soup.


When Nonna makes homemade chicken soup she likes to change things up once in awhile just to keep things interesting.  Try some of these variations:

1. Serve it with rice instead of pasta.  This is a great way to make this gluten free.

2. Add one or two parmesan rinds to the soup while it is cooking.  This adds incredible flavor to the soup  

3. Add some fresh parsley in with the other vegetables for some extra flavor.  

4. Throw in some tiny meatballs along with the chicken.  The next time you make meatballs, make some tiny meatballs and freeze them before cooking.  Then when you make soup, just throw them in and let them cook with the other ingredients.  

2 bowls of chicken soup and a bowl of grated cheese.

Storing and Freezing Pastina Chicken Soup 

It is always great to have a quick meal ready when you need it.  This soup freezes well and can be defrosted in the microwave or on the stove top if you are in a pinch.  Store it a sealed airtight container or freezer bag and it will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and up to 3 months in the freezer.

Chicken Pastina Soup FAQ’s

Do you cook pasta before adding it to chicken soup?

Pasta will continue to absorb liquid the longer it sits in it.  For this reason I recommend that you cook the pasta separate from the chicken soup and add it when you are ready to serve it.  You should also store the pasta in a separate container from the rest of the soup to keep the pasta from absorbing all of the liquid in the soup.

Can I use shredded chicken or leftover rotisserie chicken?

Yes you can use leftover chicken in this soup, but I would replace the water with chicken broth or chicken stock since you will not be cooking the chicken with the vegetables in the soup.  The chicken broth or stock will provide the rich broth flavor that you would get from cooking the chicken in the soup.

What is the difference between orzo and pastina?

Orzo, also called Rosa Marina is a very small pasta shape that resembles rice.  Pastina is shaped like little stars.  Both Orzo and pastina can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for small pasta. 

How do you drain pastina?

The best way to drain pastina is to use a fine mesh sieve or a pasta strainer that has very small holes so that the pastina does not fall through.

Should you rinse pasta after draining it?

You should not rinse pasta that is going to be used in a warm dish.  The starch in the pasta helps sauces adhere to your pasta and helps to thicken soups.  The only time you should rinse pasta is if you are going to use is it in a cold dish such as a salad.  

I love to get your feedback so if you tried Nonna’s Easy Italian Chicken Soup with Pastina or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

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2 bowls of chicken soup and a bowl of grated cheese.

Nonna’s Homemade Chicken Soup with Pastina

Hearty, comforting chicken soup right from Nonna's kitchen.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 10 servings
Calories 245 kcal


  • 1.5 lbs Chicken skinless
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 Carrot large, cut into slices
  • 2 Celery stalks sliced
  • 1/2 Onion Diced
  • 1 Tomato peeled and seeded
  • 1 Chicken Bouillon cube
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Pastina or other small pasta


  • Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven.
  • Add chicken, vegetables, bouillon, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue to boil slowly for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check to see if the broth needs any additional seasoning.
  • Fill a smaller pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the pastina and 2 heaping teaspoons of salt and cook about 10 minutes or according to package directions.
  • While the pastina is cooking transfer the chicken to a plate. Allow the chicken to cool slightly. Using your fingers or a fork, pull the meat off the bones. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and add it back into the broth.
  • When the pastina is done, drain almost all of the water out. Place a ladle of pastina in a bowl and top it with a ladle or more of soup. Serve with grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese if desired.


Serving: 10servingsCalories: 245kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 16gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 628mgPotassium: 190mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 1221IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Italian Chicken soup, chicken soup, Chicken, Vegetables, soup, pastina
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