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.

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.

david caricature

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.”

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • 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.

Common Questions

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 of My Favorite Pasta Recipes

Write a Review

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

This was so simple to make and tasted great. It will be a definite got to recipe for our family.

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

Pastina with Butter and Milk

4.78 / 18 votes
This simple pasta dish is an easy Italian comfort food made with star-shaped pasta and pantry staples. Soothing to kids of all ages.
David Leite
Servings4 servings | 4 children or 2 adults
Calories237 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 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


  • 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.


  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.
Italian Home Cooking

Adapted From

Italian Home Cooking

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 237 kcalCarbohydrates: 29 gProtein: 6 gFat: 11 gSaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gTrans Fat: 0.4 gCholesterol: 28 mgSodium: 1759 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 Julia della Croce. Photo © 2010 Christopher Hirsheimer. All rights reserved.

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 with butter 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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 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!

  2. 5 stars
    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….

  3. 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.