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
  • (8)
  • 10 M
  • 20 M
  • Serves 4 children or 2 adults
4.9/5 - 8 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!


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  1. This brings me back to my childhood! My Nana used to make this for me all the time, adding scrambled egg and Locatelli Pecorino Romano. My favorite comfort food! 40+ years later and my 11 year old would eat it every night of the week if she could.

    1. Looooooooove! Many thanks for taking the time to share your memories, Michelle. It never ceases to amaze me that food conjures memories even after so long. So lovely that they remain so strongly with us. Glad to hear that the pastina-loving trait seems to have been passed down through the next generation!

  2. This was always my mom and my ultimate comfort food we loved to share. I am so happy to find this. I literally was just eating this and felt I needed to look up to see if other people eat this as well. My fiance thinks it’s so strange! But it’s really my most favorite comfort food that I really only get to cook when I’m on my own for dinner! It’s still delicious left over microwaved with a little more milk to soften it up again. And I love stirring in a nice heaping spoonful of sour cream! Soooo good.

    1. Kaitlyn, thanks so much for taking the time to share your take on this comfort food! Especially love the trick about microwaving it with more milk. Again, thank you, and I look forward to hearing which recipes on the site you happen upon next!

  3. I am a planning a special dinner party and Googled “Leites Culinaria Italian” and discovered this post. I don’t recall seeing this recipe for pastina—my personal “go-to” pasta for comfort food—before. From a tummyache to a heartache, there was nothing like my Italian born grandmother and my father’s soothing words delivered with a bowl of pastina. I made pastina for my baby who is now my 20-year-old son. I am delighted to see this recipe—it’s a reminder of very special memories with the most beloved members of my family. I will have to make this in honor of those wonderful meals with my late grandmother and father—and be thankful for my good health, my true love, and the family I now share my life with.

    1. Cherie, many, many thanks for sharing this sentiment with us. You’ve reminded us of many lovely things we’re thankful for, including pastina, too. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this recipe as well as other recipes….

  4. Add me to the list of “pastina as comfort food from childhood” fans. Still to this day it’s my favorite, especially when I’m feeling under the weather. As kids Mom would make Acini Di Pepe (tiny peppercorn shapes) with heaps of butter and salt and Stelline (tiny stars) the same way or in soup. You can usually find both by De Cecco, DaVinci or Ronzoni/Prince. I make it the same way, with butter or garlic evoo. A big heavy bowl of steamy warm pastina melts me with pleasure every single time. 🙂

    1. Bertoli and Ronzoni make Pastina. Ronzoni and DeCecco make Acini di pepe. Both are staples with my family. Chicken soup isn’t chicken soup without the BBs (acini di pepe). I can get the Acini di pepe locally but have to send away for the pastina now.

  5. This is so simple and yet so satisfying! I had some for dinner and then more for dessert with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. This is definitely going to be one of my quick and easy go-to recipes. Now to find a cheaper source of pastina….

    1. I had a pastina success story last night as well, Sara! It saved the day when my risotto-bound rice turned up full of weevils (sigh). I’d never considered dessert pasta, but you’ve inspired me to try it out–it sounds a little bit like rice pudding.

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