Chicken Broth with Pastina
This simple broth is the building block for just about every soup you’ll make. For now we’re simply adding cooked pasta to the broth for a really basic soup, but once you learn to make broth and keep it on hand you can make so many different soups with it. On the surface, this is a pretty straight forward recipe, but if you break it down, the title raises some questions. First of all, what is pastina? I had to ask Mike if “pastina” is a word people know. He said it is not. I say it should be. It’s pretty simple, really. Pastina is just tiny pasta made for soup.
Broth however is whole other story. I’ve always used the terms broth and stock interchangeably, but they actually have a few subtle difference. Without getting too technical, stock is made with bones and is not seasoned with salt whereas broth is made with meat (which can include bones) and is salted. I oversimplified this explanation for a reason. I don’t think it matters much for us home cooks! Splitting hairs over broth versus stock just complicates matters and deters people from making, let’s call it broth at home. That’s such a shame because homemade is healthier and tastes so much better. Invest a little time upfront making broth and you can freeze it so it’s available whenever you need it. There are countless ways to make it, but I wanted to provide you with the easiest method possible so that you’ll actually want to do it and feel confident about the outcome. The recipe below is a slight adaptation of my mom’s original recipe.
- 6 quarts of water
- 3 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces or bones
- Parmigiano cheese rind, optional
- 1 wooden spoon of salt and more to taste – I know wooden spoon isn’t a standard measure, but it’ll be fine
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 celery stalks, washed and cut in half
- 2-3 carrots, peeled only if you plan to reserve them and add to your soup
- 2 whole white onions, peeled – I always save the onions and eat them in my soup
- 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 bunch parsley, intact
*With the exception of the onions (I’m obsessed with onions), I generally discard all of the vegetables after straining my broth as they have been cooked down to a mushy consistency. For this reason I simply wash the vegetables but do not bother peeling the carrots or gutting the tomatoes or even chopping the parsley. If using chicken pieces with enough meat, I remove the meat from the bone after straining the broth and add it to my soup. Otherwise it all gets discarded.
Instructions – cook for at least 2 hours or optimally for four hours
- Put chicken, bay leaves and cheese rind (if using) into a large soup pot and then cover with water and add salt
- Heat on medium until the water comes to a boil, about 30 minutes and then skim off any foam that rises to the top
- Add the vegetables and parsley and reduce heat to bring the liquid to a steady simmer for about 30 minutes
- Reduce heat and cook with lid loosely covering soup for a total cook time of at least 2 hours, optimal total cook time is 4 hours
- Stir soup occasionally and monitor heat so that liquid does not begin to boil
- Check seasoning and add salt as needed
- Remove from heat and strain broth using a fine mesh sieve into another soup pot, bowl or storage containers
- Serve immediately with pastina (below) or freeze in storage containers for future use
*To serve with “pastina” bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water has come to a roaring boil, drop in the pasta, stir and cook according to the time instructions on the box. Strain pastina, add to chicken broth. If you reserved any meat or vegetable add to the soup at this time and serve hot. My favorite “pastina” is farfalline by Barilla (pictured above). They cook in 7 minutes.
Chicken breast is probably the most readily available option and it makes a flavorful clear broth, but you can test out different chicken parts to see what you like best. You can even buy chicken bones which are generally cheaper and just as flavorful although they won’t provide you with any meat.
I find that 4 hours is the optimal cook time for chicken broth, but you can safely reduce the cook time to 2 hours if needed. Cooking beyond 4 hours is unnecessary and some say the extra time reaches a point of diminishing returns. Try for 4 hours if you can spare the time!