This pesto chicken orzo soup is a quick 30-minute small-batch dinner that makes enough for two people with some leftovers. It’s packed with tender chicken and fresh zucchini along with some pasta and a pop of pesto.
Pesto Chicken Orzo Soup
Anyone who’s successfully grown basil knows that whirring up a batch of homemade pesto is the best way to put all of those tender leaves to good use. And anyone who’s spent at least five minutes on Pinterest knows you can portion it out in an ice cube tray and freeze it with the intention to use it all through the fall and winter when basil is out of season. But, based on a recent conversation I had on this very subject, turns out that the carefully portioned frozen pesto has a higher chance of being tossed out than being used. This is not a scientific conclusion based on a large sample size, but I suspect this is the case more often than not. So, inspired by the conversation about what to do with all the pesto, I came up with this pesto chicken orzo soup as one option so instead of tossing out twelve cubes you only have to toss eleven.
It’s a small-batch soup that makes enough for two people with some leftovers and not only puts pesto to use but other odds and ends that take up room in the pantry and fridge. It’s hearty enough for dinner along with some bread on the side.
Some Ingredients You’ll Need
- It starts with a boneless, skinless chicken breast that you first brown in the pan until it’s cooked through. I like to set it aside once it’s cooked, cut it into chunks, and then add it back into the soup after the other ingredients have simmered. That way, the chicken stays tender and doesn’t overcook. I used a large chicken breast that I sliced in half through the middle to make two thin cutlets so they would cook faster. You could also use the same amount of chicken tenders if you want to skip the slicing part.
- Some fresh zucchini and onion cook in all the flavor left behind by the chicken.
- A squeeze of lemon juice adds brightness but also aids in releasing all the delicious browned bits off the bottom of the pan before you add the chicken stock.
- And, as Ina Garten would say: if you don’t have time to grow and harvest your own basil to make homemade pesto, store-bought pesto is fine.
- Orzo, a small rice-shaped pasta, simmers in the soup until it’s tender. Garnish the soup with grated parmesan cheese and sliced basil.
The recipe makes enough to serve a couple of people for dinner with leftovers for one to warm the next day for lunch. Toast up some bread on the side, crack open a crisp white wine, and you’ll have a little cozy dinner for two.
Happy pesto soup-making.
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Pesto Chicken Orzo Soup
This small-batch soup with chicken, pesto, zucchini, and pasta makes enough for two people with some leftover to reheat the next day for lunch. It’s a quick 30-minute dinner.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 3 servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: American
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper (see note)
- 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2” pieces
- 2 pinches of kosher salt
- 2 pinches of black pepper
- Juice of one lemon, divided
- 1/4 cup pesto (homemade or storebought)
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/3 cup orzo
- Sliced fresh basil, for garnish (optional)
- Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
- In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook it in the oil for three to four minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board.
- In the same pan, cook the onions and zucchini in the oil for four to five minutes or until they have softened. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Squeeze half of the lemon juice into the pan and, using the spoon, scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Add the pesto and chicken stock and stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, add the orzo, and cook it in the soup for seven minutes, or for a few minutes less than what is listed on the package. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle boil as the pasta cooks.
- While the soup simmers, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Once the pasta is cooked through add the chicken back to the soup.
- Add the other half of the lemon juice to the soup and simmer it for another couple of minutes, or until the chicken is warmed through. Check for seasoning and add additional salt, if needed. Garnish each serving with sliced fresh basil and parmesan cheese, if using.
- If you buy a large chicken breast I recommend slicing it in half to create two thin cutlets that will cook faster. Or, you can buy the same amount of chicken tenders and use those instead.
- Calories: 459
- Sugar: 10.2g
- Fat: 28.3g
- Carbohydrates: 21.6g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 28.7g
Keywords: pesto chicken orzo soup, chicken soup recipe