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Saturday, May 11, 2024

Italian Penicillin Soup: A Nourishing Pastina Soup Delight

Italian grandmothers affectionately refer to this comforting dish as “Italian penicillin soup” for its ability to soothe and heal. This one-pot wonder combines tender vegetables, tiny pasta, savory chicken broth, and the irresistible richness of Parmesan cheese. In just 30 minutes, you can have this cozy and nourishing pastina soup ready to grace your weeknight table.

Pastina soup, also known as Minestrina or Pastina in Brodo, is lovingly dubbed “Italian penicillin” for its comforting properties. One taste of the delicate chicken broth filled with tiny star-shaped pasta, and you’ll immediately see why!

Similar to Greek Avgolemono soup or Turkish Mercimek Çorbası (lentil soup), pastina soup is a humble pantry staple cherished for its ability to warm a child’s tummy, whether it’s to stave off a cold or simply to offer that comforting embrace that only a bowl of soup can deliver.

Although pastina is conventionally prepared with homemade chicken stock or broth, I opt for low-sodium store-bought versions to streamline the process for a speedy weeknight meal. Additionally, feel free to use any small pasta you have available, such as acini di pepe or orzo.

Whether you need a soup for cold to get an immunity boost or not, I know you’ll love this nourishing easy soup!

Pastina Soup Ingredients

Pastina is a humble pantry dish, designed to utilize ingredients you probably already have! Here’s what you’ll need:

. Chicken broth: Opt for either homemade chicken stock or low-sodium store-bought chicken broth, giving you the flexibility to adjust the salt level according to your preference.

. Fresh Vegetables: The aromatic base of the broth is crafted from onion, carrot, and celery. While I prefer the gentle sweetness of yellow onion, you can easily substitute it with white onion or 2-3 shallots.

. Parmesan rind: Infuse the broth with an abundance of umami richness. Store your leftover Parmesan rinds in the freezer for easy access. While a large chunk of Parmesan can also be used, opting for the rind is a thrifty choice, as it repurposes what would otherwise be discarded.

. Kosher salt: Elevates the taste.

. Pasta: I adore pastina’s charming star shape, lending a cozy and nostalgic vibe. However, any small pasta such as alphabet, orzo, or acini di pepe would be equally suitable.

. Parsley: Brings a burst of freshness and complexity to the dish. If desired, you can swap it out for dill or basil.

. Parmesan: The addition of freshly grated Parmesan cheese provides a wonderfully salty and umami-packed final touch.

Making Pastina Soup

Pastina soup is a simple weeknight dish that you’ll soon commit to memory, ready to whip up whenever needed. Behold the method, This is how you can do it in only four simple steps:

. Simmer the broth: Begin by peeling and roughly chopping 1 onion and 2 carrots, then chop 2 celery ribs into large pieces. Place them in a large pot with a lid, along with 6 cups of low-sodium chicken broth, a Parmesan rind, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

. Puree the vegetables: Remove the Parmesan rind, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a food processor. Add a couple of ladles of broth and blend until the vegetables are completely smooth. Return the pureed vegetables to the pot.

. Boil the pasta: Turn the heat to high to bring the broth to a boil.

After the water starts bubbling, add 1 ½ cups of pastina. Cook until the pastina becomes soft, which should take about 3 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat.

. Serve: Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as needed, adding more salt if it lacks depth. Spoon the pastina into serving bowls. Finish each bowl with a garnish of parsley and grated Parmesan cheese before serving piping hot.

Preparing in Advance and Storage

To prepare for this pastina soup recipe, you can pre-make the broth, cover it, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. However, keep in mind that the pasta tends to absorb the broth and become soggy over time. To avoid this, I prefer to cook the pasta separately and add it to the soup when serving. If you wish to get a head start:

Wait to add the pasta. Prepare the broth and let it cool completely. Store it covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Boil the pasta. When you’re prepared to serve, heat the broth over high heat until it simmers. Then, cook the pasta directly in the boiling broth.

If you don’t plan to eat the whole pot. Boil your preferred quantity of pasta in salted water until cooked, then drain it and distribute it among your serving bowls. Pour the hot broth over the pasta and serve.

Alternatively, if you’re seeking a hearty chicken soup that’s ideal for meal prep, which you can freeze and effortlessly reheat in one go, consider trying our Soupe Jo (Persian Chicken Barley Soup) or Chicken Stew.

How to Complement Your Pastina Soup?

Pastina soup is delicious all by itself, but if you want something extra to eat with it, a salad is a great option. You could make a simple salad with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, and add some lemon juice and Parmesan cheese on top. Or, you could make a salad with different kinds of greens, like spinach or kale, and dress it with balsamic vinaigrette, which is a tasty sauce made with vinegar and oil. Either way, the salad will add some freshness and crunch to your meal, making it even more enjoyable!

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