Recipe Review

I Tried This Italian Grandma’s Legendary “Penicillin Soup,” and It’s Already Cured My January Blues

published Jan 28, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Penicillin soup in pot.
Credit: Sam Burros

During cold and flu season, there’s nothing that makes me feel more renewed than something hot, easy, filling, and quick. Just about every culture has cracked this code with their own interpretation of the perfect remedy: chicken noodle soup. This variation comes from Registered Dietitian Blair Ward — or, more specifically, her Italian grandmother. 

This recipe is packed with tons of vegetables, but they all get blended up to add some extra body to the soup. Whether you have a rotisserie chicken on hand or not, this soup can come together in under an hour and utilizes pastina for a nostalgic callback to a canned-soup favorite. 

Watch on Instagram: Italian “Penicillin Soup”

Credit: Sam Burros

How to Make Italian “Penicillin Soup”

Roughly chop carrots, celery and white onion. Throw them into a large pot with as many cloves of garlic as you please, some sprigs of thyme and rosemary, and Calabrian chili paste (if you want a bit of spice). Cover all the veggies with water and mix in chicken bouillon (conversely, you can use all stock, or a mixture of stock and water — just cut the amount of bouillon used accordingly). Set the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil.

Once boiling, cover the pot and drop the heat down to low so the vegetables can simmer for around 20 minutes. While your soup is simmering, cook the pastina in a separate pot according to the box instructions. You can also shred your chicken at this time if you’re using a store-bought rotisserie chicken.

Once the carrots have softened, use a slotted spoon to remove all the vegetables, and add them to a blender. Pull out the herbs and discard them at this time. Add a little bit of the soup stock into the blender and blitz the veggies on high until the mixture is completely smooth with no fibrous, stringy bits of celery. 

Add the blended vegetables back into the pot along with the chicken and cooked pastina. Squeeze some lemon into the soup and add a bit of parsley before serving. Add a bit of pesto into a bowl and top it with ladlefuls of piping-hot soup. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese, parsley, and black pepper on top and serve. 

Credit: Sam Burros

My Honest Opinion of Italian “Penicillin Soup”

I’d be lying if I said I was a Soup Person, but this soup checks every box. A lot of times, I feel like having soup is just drinking a hot liquid, and not so much like eating a meal, but the blended vegetables make all the difference here. Not only do the carrots add a brilliant orange color to the soup, but they (along with the garlic, celery, and onions) also make the soup feel richer, rather than if they were chopped up in bite-size pieces and floating freely in the soup. The tiny pastina almost feels like you’re eating risotto, and having huge chunks of chicken in the soup doesn’t hurt either.

If I were to change anything about this soup, I’d add the juice of two lemons instead of just one, or I’d add lemon juice to each bowl individually because I wasn’t getting too much of a lemony flavor. I’d maybe even throw in a little bit more of the Calabrian chili paste alongside the pesto when serving because I’m a big fan of spice. Overall, I thought this soup was delicious, and I happily delivered it to a couple of my friends who were feeling under the weather who gave it their stamp of approval. 

3 Tips for Making Italian “Penicillin Soup”

  1. Add extra garlic and lemons. If you’re feeling under the weather, lots of lemon and garlic could help you get well. Garlic has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties and was used throughout history for its alleged healing properties. An extra squeeze of lemon can help brighten your soup and clear you of congestion. 
  2. Opt for freshly cooked chicken. Using leftover chicken or buying a rotisserie may save a little bit of time, but poaching a few bone-in thighs while boiling your vegetables will add an extra-chickeny kick. You’ll want to skim off any impurities that boil up to the top when everything starts to simmer, but otherwise you can pull the chicken and shred it when you blitz the veggies. 
  3. Do it all in one pot. You can boil your pasta in the soup instead of cooking it in a separate pot. This will add some starch to the broth, resulting in an even heftier soup. To do this, cook the pasta for the recommended time after removing the carrots, celery, onions, and herbs, but before adding the blended vegetables back to the stock.