Chicken Minestrone
Chicken,  Italian,  Main Dish,  Soups,  Technique,  Vegetables

Pressure-Cooker Chicken Minestrone

Minestrone—that famous medley of veggies, beans and macaroni in tomato broth—means  “thick soup” in Italian. But don’t stop with veggies—switch it up with tender bites of chicken. Chicken pumps up the flavor, mellows out the tomatoes, and turns a chunky soup into even more of a meal. Pressure-Cooker Chicken Minestrone falls somewhere between stew and soup—”stoup,” if you will.

We got our classic minestrone from longtime pal Elinor Lipman. Most people know her for her novels, but she’s also a clever cook and baker. Her latest success, Ms. Demeanor, is a finalist for this year’s prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor. In it, to our delight, she spices up her usual witty dialog and romantic shenanigans with a little fun with food.

With minestrone, ingredients and quantities depend upon your mood and what’s in your fridge. Swap out different veggies and beans and see what happens. In the great Italian tradition, Ellie’s minestrone recipe provides guidelines rather than strict instructions.

LIke snowflakes, no two minestrones are alike. So we take liberties and add more tomatoes than Ellie would. We also prefer chicken bouillon over broth because it’s easy, inexpensive, and adds salt and flavor. But we follow Ellie’s pressure-cooker technique and, as she suggests, include at least one legume and one cruciferous vegetable like cabbage or broccoli.

And when we can, we use what she calls her favorite flavoring. “I cook it the whole time with a rind of old Parmesan,” says Ellie. “I never throw those babies away.”

Since chicken bouillon already plays a role, so why not throw in some cubed chicken breast, too? To keep it tender, don’t pressure-cook the chicken with the veggies. Instead, sauté until barely done, set aside, and then add to the hot soup to finish cooking just before serving.

And try chicken tenderloins. A fattier part of the breast, they are slightly richer and seem to stay more tender in the soup. They also come in small, easy-to-prep pieces. Since the soup doesn’t need a lot of meat, it’s worth the splurge.

We add macaroni to the bowls rather than the pot so it won’t get all bloated. Besides, we like extra macaroni in our soup.

The pressure cooker or Instant Pot cooks veggies fast, locking in both color and flavor. But if you don’t have the appliance, just triple cooking time. And while you’re waiting the extra time, order a pressure cooker.

Chicken minestrone makes a simple, hearty dinner with some crusty bread. But do what you want with this recipe. No Polizia di Minestrone will ever knock at your door.

Pressure-Cooker Chicken Minestrone

Adapted from Elinor Lipmans’s pressure-cooker minestrone recipe
Serves 6-9

  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • About 1 pound chicken tenders or boneless chicken breast, cut into about 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • A handful of fresh green beans, cut into about 1-inch lengths
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • Frozen peas, to taste
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 14.5-ounce can small diced tomatoes with Italian spices
  • Chicken bouillon cubes to taste (about 4-6 1-cup cubes)
  • 6 or more cups water
  • At least one cruciferous veggie: your choice of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnip, etc.
  • Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 16-ounce can of chickpeas
  • 16-ounce can of red kidney beans, or other bean of your choice
  • Italian herbs, pepper and salt to taste
  • Macaroni cooked al dente, 8 ounces or more, served at the table
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese to garnish
  1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Add cubed chicken and sauté on medium heat until barely done. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  2. Add more oil if needed. On low heat, sauté onion, garlic, celery, and carrots until onions are slightly softened.
  3. Add peas, zucchini, green beans, crushed tomatoes, diced Italian tomatoes, your choice of cruciferous veggie, Parmesan rind if you have it, and whatever else you want.
  4. Add water and bouillon cubes.
  5. Season with Italian herbs, black pepper, and salt to taste.
  6. Pressure cook for 15 minutes. Quick-release the pressure.
  7. Remove lid and add chicken, chickpeas, kidney beans, and any cooked veggies you may want to use. Simmer a couple of minutes to blend flavors. Adjust seasoning.
  8. Ladle into bowls and add cooked macaroni. Top with grated cheese.
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