Made with simple ingredients like butter and milk, this recipe for pastina is total Italian comfort food. It's a favorite of children and adults alike!
Is there anything more comforting than a nice, warm bowl of pastina?
My mom made me pastina all the time when I was growing up, starting from when I was very small and learning to eat real foods. Then it progressed into an under-the-weather or cold weather delicacy.
Nowadays I make my own pastina whenever I'm in the mood for comfort food, which, let's be real, is pretty often lately!
Pastina hits that comfort food sweet spot in that it uses basic, inexpensive ingredients, takes little time to make, and reliably produces a warm and creamy bowl of pasta. While everyone has their own spin on making it or what ingredients to add in, this baseline version is a classic.
All you'll need are pastina, broth (or water), butter, and milk. That's it!
The rest of the ingredients are optional but recommended, including salt and pepper to taste and freshly-grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.
Pastina doubles as the finished product name of this creamy dish, as well as what the dry pasta shape is called. I use classic pastina, which looks like tiny stars.
Since pastina literally means "little pasta", other varieties you might see at the store technically fall into the category, such as acini di pepe, which is a little bit larger in size.
Besides cooking it on its own, it's a great pasta for use in soup recipes, like this creamy Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs.
While you can certainly follow the instructions on the box and boil and drain the pasta, I like to make things even easier and add just enough liquid that will absorbed by the pastina so there's no draining required.
One cup liquid to a half-cup of pasta will do it! I've taken to using reduced-sodium chicken broth as the liquid for extra flavor, but you can definitely use water instead. Just add salt to taste.
The pastina will absorb just about all of the liquid, as seen in the picture of the saucepan above. Then it's time to stir in butter and warmed milk until creamy.
You can add more or less butter or milk in line with your tastes, but for this quantity of pasta, I add one tablespoon of butter and six tablespoons of milk. As written below, this recipe yields about two servings.
And there we go. Super, super easy. Take a taste and see if you'd like to add salt (especially so if not using broth and/or salted butter). As an adult I go for freshly cracked black pepper and a not-skimpy addition of grated Pecorino Romano cheese as toppings.
As with so many beloved Italian recipes, I know there are different directions you can take pastina. Some like to add an egg once the pasta has absorbed the broth/water and let it cook in the hot pasta. Others like to include green pastina which is made with spinach, but I haven't see that available at the store for a long, long time.
Usually I eat pastina straight-up, but you can totally upgrade it to be more of a side dish. I recently served it with smoked sausage fra diavolo when I was out of spaghetti and it was great!
- I highly recommend using broth as it provides extra flavor, though water will work, too. If using water, be sure to add salt to taste before serving.
- This recipe as written yields two servings, but can be scaled up as needed.
Classic Italian Pastina
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (8 oz), or water
- ½ cup dry pastina (3 oz)
- 1 tablespoon butter, salted or unsalted
- 6 tablespoon warm milk, more or less to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, optional (to taste)
- Add broth or water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add pastina and stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until just about all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Towards the end of the pastina cook time, add milk to a small heat-safe bowl and heat it for 15-20 seconds in the microwave, or until warmed.
- Once the pastina has absorbed about all of the liquid, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the butter and warmed milk. Stir until the butter has melted and the milk is mixed in evenly.
- If desired, add salt, pepper, and grated cheese to taste.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer
I'm not sure what type of pastina you guys are using, but mine surely isn't cooking in 4 minutes. 🙁
Hi Kris, I use actual pastina, the little stars. In my experience it absorbs the broth quickly but I know that it can be faster/slower for everyone depending upon the stovetop, heat, pan, etc. That's why the recipe instruction includes "cook for 4-5 minutes, or until just about all of the liquid has been absorbed." Hopefully you were able to continue cooking it until it reached that point.
Michelle C says
I was a tad skeptical, but in the end I was very impressed! I did have to modify the cheese because I didn’t have either of the cheeses on this recipe on hand. I ended up adding medium cheddar instead and it was like Mac n cheese meets chicken soup. I also added in a little (didn’t measure it) garlic powder to taste because I love garlic.
I can’t wait to try this one again with the cheeses listed in the recipe!!
I'm so glad you like it, Michelle! Love that you could make it your own (I'm a garlic lover too).
Lance Krystopher says
This recipe sounds great. I love to find a fast-and-easy cooking nosh like this for those times when you need a little something in your stomach. Something soothing and comforting that tastes great is always welcome for a mid-day snack or light lunch. Can’t wait to try this! The pastina sounds like such a great pasta I can’t wait to try it. I hope I can find the green variety made with spinach! I love spinach pasta!
That's a great way to describe pastina, Lance! One of the big brands that sells pastina in the U.S. recently discontinued theirs so it may be a bit hard to find at the moment, but other brands do make it, too.
I love the simplicity of this recipe and how quickly it is to make. So easy to make and my daughter absolutely LOVES it!
I'm so glad you and your daughter love it, Sarah! 🙂
This Pastini recipe was perfect. I can’t wait to make it for my grandchildren.
You're very welcome, Mary! I hope they enjoy. 🙂