Pastina with Butter and Milk

Pastina with butter and milk is easy-to-whip-up 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 Julia della Croce, the author of this pastina recipe, “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.”

Young girl seated at a table holding a spoon, in front is a bowl of pastina
: Lorna Ponte Tomek

Soooo cute, right? But not so cute that you can’t sit down to a pastina dinner with the kids every once in a while—especially after one of those days when these little stars make 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

UPDATE: Ronzoni stops making pastina

Fans of Ronzoni pastina are in an uproar–a veritable revolt–since the company announced it would no longer make the beloved shape of millions of childhoods. And they notified customers via social media.

The feedback was swift and harsh. One person replied, “At least Barilla still makes it and isn’t trying to murder my childhood 🤷‍♂️.” Ouch!

Said another, “Who’s the long-term supplier? I just wanna talk.”

But one bereft user seemed to sum it up for many: “Nothing feels like home, safety, warmth, and comfort like eating a bowl of pastina when you’re sad.”

While other pasta companies also make pastina, Ronzoni reigned supreme in America when so many of us were growing up. Whether Ronzoni makes good on its threat, er, announcement, or reverses its decision, this might be a great time to stockpile the last of the stars of the pasta world.


Why our testers loved this

Our testers adored the nostalgia that this Italian pastina recipe brought with it. Helen Doberstein calls it “good, simple comfort food, something every cook should have in their back pocket.”

Notes on ingredients

  • Pasta–Use the smallest pasta shape you can find for the best results.
  • Butter–The butter gives the pasta extra richness and flavor. Use the best-quality butter you have available. I’m fond of Kerrygold.
  • Milk–You can use any type of milk you like. I prefer whole milk for its creaminess, but low-fat will work fine, too.

How to make this recipe

  1. Cook the pasta. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the salt and pasta. Cook according to package directions, then drain, reserving the cooking water.
  2. Dump the pasta into a serving bowl or pot. Stir in the butter and milk and serve immediately.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use a different shape of pasta?

There are countless diminutive shapes of pastina, or tiny pasta, that would work with this recipe, including anellini (little rings), stelline (little stars), acini de pepe (peppercorns), funghetti (little mushrooms), and alfabeti (alphabets). However, we may be partial to these wee stars.

Can I add anything to this pastina recipe?

This is classic Italian comfort food, perfect for when you’re feeling under the weather and want something simple and easy. That said, our testers enjoyed this with a scoop of frozen vegetables added during cooking. And it would also be great with some diced ham, bacon, or sausage tossed in.

For extra richness, you could add a dollop of mascarpone cheese, as tester Jo Ann Brown suggests, or finish it with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.

What’s the difference between orzo and pastina?

The main difference is the size. Orzo, a small rice-shaped pasta, is larger than pastina.

Helpful tips

  • Store leftover pastina in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
  • To reheat pastina, warm it in a saucepan over low heat until heated through. You may need to add a splash of milk to loosen the pasta.
  • This is suitable for a vegetarian diet.

More great pasta recipes

☞ If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Pastina with Butter and Milk

Pot filled with pastina with butter and milk and a wooden spoon all on a towel.
This simple pasta dish 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
4.77 / 17 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Italian Home Cooking cookbook

Want it? Click it.

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.
Print RecipeBuy the Italian Home Cooking cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Notes

  1. Storage–Store leftover pastina in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
  2. Reheating–To reheat pastina, warm it in a saucepan over low heat until heated through. You may need to add a splash of milk to loosen the pasta.
  3. Dietary–This is suitable for a vegetarian diet.

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%)

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This brings back fond memories for me. This is what I turned to when my kids were very little and being fussy or under the weather.

If nothing else, I could count on pastina to keep their strength up. I’d 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, I’ve enjoyed this dish during many stages of my life. From my first food as a kid, to an economical meal during my college days, to a quick dinner after a long, late day at work. Bottom line: Pastina is easy to prepare, simple, and neutral. This recipe for “stelline” (little stars) is pastina in its purest form.

My tips: The yield for this recipe is pretty big. I’d halve the recipe to serve two adults or four bambinos. If you’re feeling a little more decadent, spoon in a tablespoon or two of mascarpone or fromage blanc. Heaven!

I live in a small town and couldn’t find pastina or any of the smaller shapes suggested. So I went with what was available at my gourmet grocery store–a high-end brand of dried pasta from Italy. I was rewarded with 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.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 5 stars
    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…

  4. 5 stars
    I made the “Pastina” recipe for my 2-year-old granddaughter who always asks for either pasta or macaroni and cheese. I used the little alphabets because that’s what I had in the cupboard, and added some grated Parmesan; and little Evvie ate the whole plate in front of her and declared, “It’s Good Grandma!” Since I’m the VoVo here, you should know, it might be Italian, but it’s also very much a Portuguese comfort food too! I will be making this again and again and again and….

    Young girl seated at a table holding a spoon, in front is a bowl of pastina

      1. Oh, and David, in addition, let me add that I needed to make lunch for Grandpa too! So I gave him some Pastina, and to his I added some leftover grilled sliced chourico and kielbasa, because that’s what I had in the house! A delicious meal for adults too! I’m thinking about more ways to use this quick and easy to make comfort food! Thanks David ❤️

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