If there was ever a season for soup, we are soooo in it right now. And there’s nothing cozier than this Zesty Italian Chicken Soup. It’s got lean, seasoned chicken breast, orzo pasta, baby spinach and lots of salty Parmesan cheese in warm chicken broth.
And my favorite part? The egg drop. So fun to make, and so delicious to eat.
And as I’ve said before, I really don’t care for snow, but I love snow days. I love being cozy inside. And deep down, I’ll admit, I kind of like the excuse to not have to go anywhere or do anything.
I don’t feel this way any other time of year. But during these cold winter months, I could stay in every night, binge Netflix and eat a big bowl of homemade chicken soup.
Can you use Italian seasoning in chicken soup?
Italian seasoning is typically a blend of basil, oregano, parsley and other herbs and spices that taste delicious in chicken soup.
Sprinkle Italian seasoning on top of chicken soup or stir it into the broth. Use it to make homemade garlic bread to dunk in your bowl of soup!
For this Zesty Italian Chicken Soup, we’re using Italian seasoning to coat the actual chicken before we add it to the soup.
What’s in this Zesty Italian Chicken Soup
Most of what you’ll need to make this delicious soup are pantry staples. Here’s the full list:
- Boneless, skinless chicken breast. While I’m usually a big fan of using pre-cooked chicken breast or rotisserie chicken to make recipes easier, we’re going to season the chicken pretty heavily for this soup. So we need to start with raw chicken so that the seasonings can adhere to it.
- Orzo. Although it resembles rice, orzo is actually pasta. Since it’s so tiny, it will cook quickly right in the chicken broth, so there’s no need to boil it separately. If you want to go gluten free, look for gluten free orzo at the supermarket.
- Baby spinach leaves. I use baby spinach because it’s mild, nutrient-packed and the whole family will eat it. If I tried coming at them with kale or swiss chard there would be a full-on revolt. But just pick a dark, leafy green of your choice.
- Chicken broth. That’s right, we are not making homemade chicken broth for this recipe! Don’t hate me. Using store-bought chicken broth is a whole lot easier than making homemade broth, and will save you hours of cooking.
- Eggs. This is the best part of this Zesty Italian Chicken Soup! It’s so fun dropping the beaten egg right into the hot soup and watching it scramble into little ribbons right before your eyes! It’s sort of like making funnel cake. I’m guilty of sometimes recording the process with my phone. It’s so cool to watch!
- Parmesan cheese. The cheese serves a dual function in this soup: it adds richness and it also adds salt. Since there is no added salt in this recipe at all, you can be generous with the cheese.
- Italian seasoning. You can find pre-made Italian seasoning in the grocery store, or make my easy homemade version.
What you need for the homemade Italian seasoning
I keep homemade Italian seasoning in the fridge most of the time. It’s one of those go-to seasoning blends that you can use on so many things! I use it to season the chicken for this Zesty Italian Chicken Soup and also on my Pepperoni and Cheese Stromboli and Sausage & Pesto Calzones.
The seasoning blend is pretty simple and you probably have most of the ingredients already on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:
Why is it a good idea to keep Italian seasoning in the fridge? Two reasons. First, there’s Parmesan cheese.
Second, there’s crushed red pepper. Being sort of “raised” by Italian cooks, I have always been advised to keep my red pepper in the fridge. I never asked why.
Turns out, the best way to store all all of your red spices (like chili powder and paprika too) is in the fridge. This ensures the best quality for a long time. So yeah. Keep the Italian seasoning in the fridge.
Here are some other ways to enjoy homemade Italian seasoning:
- sprinkle it on pizza and pasta
- season grilled proteins like chicken and beef
- stir it into burger mixture while forming the patties
- season French fries and baked potatoes
- add it to an olive oil and vinegar mixture to make homemade salad dressing
How to make Zesty Italian Chicken Soup
The first step to making this soup is to cook the chicken. We’re seasoning it heavily with our homemade Italian seasoning and pan frying it in a little extra virgin olive oil. Then, we’ll shred the cooked chicken with forks.
The rest is super easy, because everything cooks right in the chicken broth!
Instead of boiling the orzo in water, we’re going to cook it right into the broth. Then, when the broth is nice and hot, we’ll drizzle the scrambled egg into it. Watch for it to scramble almost immediately! It’s really cool to watch.
The spinach will wilt right in the broth too.
Then, all that’s left to do is add the chicken back in!
How to Enhance the flavor of Zesty Italian Chicken Soup
This chicken soup makes a filling and delicious meal. If you’re looking to amp up the flavor profile, here are my favorite tips and tricks:
- Use a 50/50 split of chicken broth and chicken stock. Stock has a bolder flavor because, unlike broth, its made with the bones of the chicken. So its a little thicker on the palate and cloudier looking. If you love a really hearty soup, add some stock to the broth.
- Use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. Thighs have a higher fat content and can be more satisfying than breasts.
- Experiment with different cheeses. Instead of, or in addition to, Parmesan, try grating cheeses like Pecorino Romano or Asiago. Both have a sharp, salty flavor that will really make the flavors in this soup pop!
How long does chicken soup last in the fridge?
Chicken soup will keep in the fridge for no more than five days. Any longer, and the risk of food poisoning increases. This is especially true for creamy soups.
If you don’t think you’ll eat your leftover soup within 3-4 days, plan to freeze it.
How to freeze leftover soup
This recipe for Zesty Italian Chicken Soup makes a big pot of soup, so we’ll typically eat half and freeze half. Before freezing your soup, let it come down to room temperature. I like to divide soups into single servings and freeze them in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.
When you want to defrost your frozen soup, take it in whatever freezer-safe container you used and place it in a big bowl of cold water. This will loosen it up enough for you to be able to transfer it to a soup pot. Then, slowly simmer it on the stove until it reaches a nice warm temperature.
Keeping frozen soups on hand is a great way to have a quick homemade meal during the winter months. Grab a loaf of crusty bread and pop some homemade soup out of the freezer and you’ve got an easy weeknight dinner.
Is chicken soup healthy?
Depending on the type of soup, chicken soup can be a healthy meal option. Using clear broth vs. a cream base keeps the fat content low.
Chicken broth is rich in iron and protein. It also contains fatty acids that are important for muscle repair.
The lean chicken is low in calories and provides lots of quality protein. The spinach in this Zesty Italian Chicken Soup provides a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals with virtually no calories.
The egg kicks in even more protein, and the orzo balances it all out with a healthy dose of carbohydrates.
Is orzo similar to pastina?
Pastina is a tiny pasta shape that is very popular in Italian soups. While orzo is small and rice-shaped, pastina is even smaller.
Pastina brings back childhood memories for many, and is still associated with comfort and healing. It can be found in tiny star shapes and also little round shapes.
Pastina or any other tiny shape of pasta can be used in place of orzo in this recipe if desired.
So grab a loaf of your favorite crusty bread and settle in. It may be cold outside, but you’ll be warm and cozy with this big bowl o’ love.
And when you make this Zesty Italian Chicken Soup, I’d love to hear about it! Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more cozy soup recipes, try these:
For more Italian recipes, try these:
Zesty Italian Chicken Soup
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 cups dry orzo pasta
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 quarts chicken broth
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
- Italian seasoning see below
- 2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried parsley
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- Combine all of the ingredients for the Italian Seasoning in a shallow bowl. Coat chicken in the seasoning, pressing to adhere. Heat oil over medium heat in a nonstick pan. Brown the chicken, 5-7 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove chicken onto a cutting board and shred with forks.
- Bring broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Beat the eggs and pour them into a glass measuring cup, or anything that has a spout. Add orzo to the broth. and cook 1 minute. Lower heat to a simmer and pour in the egg. Add the chicken and spinach.
- Ladle soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.