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.–Renee Schettler Rossi

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

  • Quick Glance
  • (7)
  • 10 M
  • 20 M
  • Serves 4 children or 2 adults
4.9/5 - 7 reviews
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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.

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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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. Pastina is a comfort food in my family too. Only we do it a bit differently. After the pastina is cooked and drained we stir in a beaten egg and then if necessary return to the heat for a bit, continuing to stir, then take it off before the egg is entirely cooked so you get a sort of creamy scrambled egg with pasta. Salt and pepper to taste. You can add a bit of cheese too if you are inclined.

    My 88-year-old mother recently went through some health issues and didn’t have much of an appetite for anything so I made her a little bowl of pastina. It was just what she needed.

    It is really difficult to find in the stores on the west coast now so I have to order it online. Usually 6-12 boxes at a time. You’d think it would be a lifetime supply but no, every few years I have to order another dozen boxes. I do keep mine tightly sealed in Tupperware to ensure there is no contamination.

    I have read of making this recipe with butter and milk and then adding cinnamon, sugar and perhaps some other spices such as cloves, nutmeg or cardamom. I’ll bet it tastes delicious that way.

    1. mlaiuppa, many thanks for sharing this. What you describe is something similar to what my mom would make me when I wasn’t feeling well, which was scrambled eggs with macaroni. Granted, your version sounds more elegant! I think perhaps it’s hard to go wrong when tweaking this recipe to personal preference, yes? Kindly let us know what variations you try so we can share them with others…

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