Pastina with Butter and Milk

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.

Pot filled with pastina with butter and milk and a wooden spoon all on a towel

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

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

Pot filled with pastina with butter and milk and a wooden spoon all on a towel
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.

Prep 10 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 20 mins
Mains
Italian
4 servings | 4 children or 2 adults
237 kcal
4.91 / 10 votes
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Ingredients 

  • 1 cup “little stars” pastina or other tiny pastina shapes
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup warm milk plus more if desired

Directions
 

  • 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.
Print RecipeBuy the Italian Home Cooking cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 237kcal (12%)Carbohydrates: 29g (10%)Protein: 6g (12%)Fat: 11g (17%)Saturated Fat: 6g (38%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 28mg (9%)Sodium: 1759mg (76%)Potassium: 132mg (4%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 2g (2%)Vitamin A: 327IU (7%)Calcium: 49mg (5%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

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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.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I bookmarked this recipe a while ago, saving it for when I got sick. Sadly/happily, that day has arrived, so I made it this morning. I can’t believe how good and satisfying it is!

    Unfortunately, I am not Italian, so I didn’t grow up with a nonna making this for me. I understand now why this is such a cherished food memory for so many. It is so easy and quick I could make it for myself while sick, and the end result is much greater than the sum of its simple parts. I used salted butter and more milk instead of the pasta water, and it was glorious. I can seen variations with chicken stock, Parm, garlic, etc., but this basic, gentle version is already perfection.

    From now on, I’ll be my own nonna when I’m sick and make this for myself.

    1. Thanks, Leah. I’m glad to hear that this recipe was a wonderful remedy and I hope with a few more bowls you will be on the mend soon!

  2. 5 stars
    Just butter and salt. That’s all that’s needed. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Doesn’t matter. I was babysitting my grandson (3yrs old) and he was busy having Grammy’s pastina when my daughter got to my house to pick him up. She was so surprised and thrilled. It took it right back to her childhood and she’s was trying to figure out why she’s never made it for her boys. I told her not to worry, they have it at Grammy’s all the time, she said okay but what about me! She ate what was still in the pot, right out of the pot. She said tastes exactly like she remembers.

  3. Ahhhh pastina! This was my first comfort food. Grandma and mom always would make it for us when we were feeling a little punky. Thanks for the memory. Hard to find pastina in the grocery store today.

  4. 4 stars
    This is the weirdest recipe I have ever tried. That being said it’s my toddlers favorite. They devour it. I don’t use 12 cups of water to boil I use 6 cups for 1 cup of pastina. I also use 1/4 cup of milk because 1/2 makes it watery. I wish I knew about this when my kids were just trying food.

      1. This brings tears to my eyes. Tears of joy and happiness and comfort. Growing up, this is what Grandma made me whenever I was sad or not feeling well or just put it in front of me and those little stars magically lit up. Thank you for featuring this little gem of childhood. Every kid and adult needs this.

  5. My mother used to make this for us when we were sick. She’d add sugar. I’m recovering from surgery & picked out a box from my cupboard, but I couldn’t remember how to make it. That brought me here. Yay!

    1. Amazing how food instantly transports us back to another time, Ellen S.! Grateful you found what you were seeking. Wishing you an easy and quick recovery. Glad you happened upon our site and looking forward to hearing which recipe you try next…

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