Pastina with butter and milk is an easy Italian comfort food made with star-shaped pasta and pantry staples. Soothing to kids of all ages.
According to the author of this pastina with butter and milk recipe, Julia della Croce, “Nothing is more emblematic of an Italian childhood than pastina (literally, “little pasta”) with butter and milk. It’s baby’s first solid food, remembered in adulthood with great nostalgia. Soooo cute, right? But not so cute that adults can’t sit down to pastina for dinner once in a while alongside the kids—especially after one of those days, when these little stars makes everything better in the twinkling of an eye. So when you wish upon a star, wish hard for pastina with butter and milk.–David Leite
☞ Table of Contents
Can I use a different shape pasta?
There are countless diminutive shapes of pastina, or little pasta, that would work with this recipe, including anellini (little rings), stelline (little stars), acini de pepe (peppercorns), funghetti (little mushrooms), and alfabeti (alphabets). Though we may be partial to these wee stars.
Pastina with Butter and Milk
- Bring 3 quarts (12 cups) water to a boil. Stir in the pastina and salt and cook according to the package directions.
- Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water, and dump the pasta in a bowl or return it to whatever you used to boil it.
- While the pasta is still piping hot, add the butter, burying it in the pasta to melt it. Stir in the warm milk. If desired, add a little more warm milk. Serve at once to prevent the pastina from drying out and clumping. For best results, stir in a little of the reserved cooking water as needed to keep the pasta moist. Originally published November 29, 2011.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This brings back fond memories for me. This is the first thing I did when my kids were very little and being fussy or under the weather. If nothing else, I could count on this to keep their strength up. I would sprinkle a little cheese onto the pasta, because for them cheese made everything better.
This is nothing short of good, simple comfort food, something every cook should have in their back pocket. I also like this with a cup of frozen veggies tossed in when it’s just me and my sweetie for dinner.
Being Italian-American, this dish has taken me through many stages of living. From my first food, to an economical meal instead of ramen noodles during those college days, to a quick dinner after a long, late day at work, pastina is easy to prepare, simple, and neutral. This recipe for “stelline” (little stars) is the pastina in its purest form.
My tips: the serving yield for this recipe is pretty big. I would halve the recipe to serve two adults or four bambinos. If you are feeling like being a little more decadent and grown-up, spoon in a tablespoon or two of mascarpone or fromage blanc. Heaven!
While I couldn’t find pastina or any of the smaller shapes suggested, I went with what was available at my gourmet grocery store (I live in a small town). I could have used orzo, but I decided upon a high-end brand of dried pasta from Italy. I was was rewarded with a delicious tasting pasta!
While I make pasta all the time, I had never thought to add a bit of warmed milk. It added a surprising deliciousness that children and adults could certainly enjoy.