This comfort food classic comes together in under 10 minutes.
This rich and creamy Italian comfort food is made with a few simple ingredients and comes together in under 10 minutes. Also called “Italian penicillin”, it’s a favorite sick day cure (bonus points if it’s made with homemade chicken stock). Pastina was also one of the only dishes I could stomach when I was pregnant and in my first trimester.
How is pastina different from other famous dishes with similar ingredients like cacio e pepe? It’s both the name of the dish and also refers to the tiny pasta shape used. Pastina literally means “tiny pasta” in Italian. The pasta is cooked in just enough chicken stock to absorb most of it before butter, an egg and cheese are added. Serve the kid-friendly dish topped with a heaping pile of more Parmesan.
Chicken stock – Chicken stock is typically made from chicken bones as well as aromatics and vegetables, while chicken broth is made with the meat. How does that affect their flavor? Chicken stock has a much richer, more robust flavor which comes from the collagen released from the simmering bones. On the other hand, chicken broth is much more mellow in flavor. I typically use chicken stock when cooking. Substitute the chicken stock with water if needed (though it takes away some of the flavor). I prefer to use low-sodium chicken stock so I can better control the salt.
Pastina – Pastina is both the name of the dish and the name of the tiny star shape of pasta used to make it. In Italy “pastina” can refer to many small pasta shapes while in the US it refers to the star shaped pasta. Also called stellina or stelline, it’s the smallest shape of pasta produced. If you’re like me and worried about Ronzoni discontinuing pastina due to supply chain issues, never fear, another brand easily found in most grocery stores, Barilla still makes it! If you can’t find pastina, look for another small pasta shape like acini di pepe or orzo.
Egg – While it’s not absolutely necessary, I like to beat the egg before adding it to the pastina mixture. This ensures the egg blends seamlessly and you don’t have any pieces of egg white. The egg makes the dish creamier while adding protein.
Parmesan cheese – Parmesan-Reggiano is definitely one of my favorite cheeses. It’s a hard cow’s milk cheese aged for different lengths of time. I’d recommend buying a roughly cut piece of wrapped cheese from the grocery store – it’s typically a higher quality cheese.
How to Make Pastina
Step 1: Cook pasta
Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the pastina to the liquid and cook until the pasta is al dente and most of the stock has been absorbed, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Step 2: Stir in remaining ingredients
Remove the pot from heat and quickly stir in the butter, egg and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Serve
Serve warm in bowls topped with additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Tips and Tricks for This Recipe
Swaps and substitutions
If needed, substitute another small pasta shape.
While not the classic dish, put your own spin on it by adding fresh herbs like chives. For a variation with a bit of spice, add a drizzle of chili oil.
The Parmesan can be swapped for another hard Italian cheese like pecorino romano.
The chicken stock can be substituted with water or vegetable stock to make the dish vegetarian.
How to reheat pastina
Pastina is best fresh, however, if you have leftovers then store them refrigerated in an airtight container. To reheat, simply microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between until heated, and top with more grated Parmesan.
Other Recipes to Try
If you liked this pastina recipe, give these other sick day comfort foods a try and follow me on Instagram for more update: