Easy Pastina Recipe (Creamy, Cheesy Comfort Food)

Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Kayla Berman

Pastina is the ultimate comfort food! Made with chicken broth, parmesan cheese, and butter … this tiny star-shaped pasta dish is cooked risotto-style to perfection in under 15 minutes. It is simple, delicious, and nicknamed “Italian Penicillin” for its healing, comforting nature. The perfect recipe to keep in your back pocket for a sick day!

Spoonful of tiny star pasta

Why You’ll Love This Pastina Recipe

While I pretty much think there is nothing not to love about this recipe, here are the highlights:

  • SO Easy: This recipe requires just 5 ingredients and under 15 minutes! You can’t get much easier than that. You’ll have this cozy, healing dish ready way quicker than chicken soup could be.
  • Simple & Delicious: Buttery, cheesy pastina is simple deliciousness at its best. We all know that buttered pasta is a staple favorite food for so many! Because it is good. It is tried and true! Throw in little star pasta and parmesan cheese and it is just unbeatable.
  • Kid Friendly: Possibly my favorite part about this dish is that it is both kid and adult friendly. It is everyone friendly! You can spruce it up a bit for yourself and keep to the bare bones for your little ones. The whole family will be happy!
  • Comforting: Whether, you are nursing a broken heart or a winter cold … pastina is the cure. I suggest you store this recipe in your back pocket for a rainy day! I can guarantee it will come in handy many times.

What is pastina pasta?

Pastina is a general term that encompasses many small pasta shapes. This can include shapes like ditalini, acini de pepe, Israeli cousocus, and orzo – but most people use the term to refer to the star shaped stelline pasta.

These itty-bitty pieces of noodles are typically prepared more similarly to rice than pasta due to their size. The tiny stars are often used in chicken noodle soup or pastina soup! Another very common preparation method is one similar to risotto. Which is what I do! The pastina pasta is cooked in chicken broth and mixed with cheese and butter to make a super creamy dish.

It is known to be the best of the best when it comes to comfort food. It has even been nicknamed “Italian Penicillin” believed to cure sickness and heartbreak alike. It is no wonder why! This dish truly feels like a warm hug from nonna.

Risotto-style pastina in a bowl

Ingredients & Substitutions

This ultimate comfort food recipe is made with only 5 simple ingredients! Plus salt and black pepper … but who really counts those!?!

My one tip for this short ingredient list is to purchase and use high quality ingredients for the best results. Fresh parmigiano reggiano, fresh garlic, rich butter, and quality broth!

  • Pastina: The star of this show is of course the tiny little pasta stars … pastina! Pastina noodles were always a classic type of pasta in my house growing up and still are to this day. If you’re thinkinh what the heck is pastina? Read above – I go over all the lovely details.
  • Chicken Broth: Cooking pasta in broth gives it so much additional good flavor. You could go with vegetable broth, beef broth, or even bone broth. No matter what though, I highly recommend a broth over just plain water. Homemade chicken broth would be wonderful too!
  • Parmesan Cheese: My favorite ingredient in this recipe is the grated parmesan cheese. I mean … are we surprised? Give me all the cheese please! It just adds so much savory, salty, umami goodness. You could also alternatively use pecorino romano or any similar hard aged cheese.
  • Salted Butter: Is there any better combo than pasta and butter. Its kind of like peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese and tomato soup! I always love to use salted butter, but you could do unsalted butter instead and control the salt quantity yourself.
  • Fresh Garlic: I think adding fresh garlic just completely elevates this simple dish. You could also use garlic powder instead. But I always think fresh is best!
"Italian Penicillin" ingredients

Equipment Needed

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How To Make Pastina

This recipe for pastina is so incredibly easy! This cozy, comforting pasta dish is cooked in a risotto-style in under 15 minutes.

Step 1: Cook the star-shaped pasta. Add the pastina and chicken broth to a small pot or saucepan.  Bring to a gentle boil and stir often until the pasta is cooked to your liking and the chicken broth is almost all absorbed.

Cooked pastina in a pot

Step 2: Add ingredients. Turn the heat to low and add in the freshly grated parmesan cheese, salted butter, and fresh garlic. Stir for a few minutes until thoroughly combined and the cheese is melted. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. You can also add extra chicken broth here for a saucier consistency.

Step 3: Serve and enjoy! I like to add extra butter and parmesan cheese on top.

Pastina with butter, cheese, and garlic in a pot

Optional Variations & Dietary Adaptions

This easy pastina with butter and cheese is one of my favorite recipes! A large part of that is due to its simplicity. Buuuuut just because it is simple, does not mean it can’t be spruced up to become even more wonderful. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Spice it up: If you like your pasta spicy, I suggest adding some red pepper flakes to your delicious pastina. Then after that, head over to my Spicy Vodka Pasta. You’ll love it!
  • Fresh Herbs: For extra fanciness and flavor add your favorite herbs. I would recommend fresh parsley or fresh basil.
  • Finishing Oil: This basic pasta can be so easily elevated with a finishing oil. I suggest a high quality extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil.
  • Lemon Zest: A dusting of lemon zest would add such a lovely burst of freshness and brightness to this dish. I just love a lemon pasta!
  • Gluten Free: Don’t worry cealiacs! You can still enjoy this Italian pastina dish. Here is a gluten free little stars pasta option! Alternatively, if you cant find the stars in your grocery store any small-shaped pasta would work in its place.
  • Vegetarian: This recipe is already very vegetarian friendly! Simply swap vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.
  • Low Sodium: My favorite way to enjoy this pastina recipe is with lots of salt. I like it in the butter, the cheese, and the broth. LOL … I am not watching my sodium intake over here. However, if you are -there are a few easy changes you can make to accommodate. Use unsalted butter and reduced-sodium chicken broth.
Spoonful of small star shapped Stelline pasta

Expert Tips

Fresh parmesan – I always always always recommend buying a fresh parmesan cheese block and grating it yourself. It tastes so much better than the shelf-stable Kraft version. Plus the lack of preservatives and additives means it melts better too!

Chicken broth – You really have to cook the pastina in chicken broth here. Water will not do the trick! Chicken broth adds SO much flavor on its own.

Add and adjust – This recipe is very bare bones and basic. You can sort of take it in any direction you’d like! Add more or less of any of the ingredients – chicken broth, cheese, and butter.

Skip the garlic – Whether you’ve got picky eaters in your midst or simply can’t bring yourself to deal with mincing fresh garlic, feel free to skip it. I think it adds an extra level of wonderful flavor (especially for an adult crowd), but it is not necessary. Kids would probably prefer the dish more with just the yummy butter and cheese.

Serving Suggestions

Eating pastina will be a fabulous experience whichever way you do it! However, here is how I personally like to:

  • On Its Own: I honestly think this is the best way to do it! This pastina recipe is simple for a reason. That reason is that it is dang delicious. I mean is there anything better than pasta + butter + parmesan cheese!?!
  • Add Protein: However, if you want a more well-rounded meal experience I do not blame you. Feel free to add seared chicken, baked fish, or salmon bites on top for a protein boost. YUM.
  • Add Veggies: I always like to add some color and nutrition to my meals. I love mixing this with some frozen peas and corn. It’s simple and delicious. But my Smashed Parmesan Broccoli or Honey Garlic Green Beans would be fabulous on the side.
  • More Carbs: Carbs on the side of carbs? Yes please! I suggest another cheesy, buttery, garlicky option … Garlic Bread Baguette.
  • Dinner Party: Pastina would work as a wonderful side dish at an Italian food themed dinner party. Pair with Goat Cheese Bruschetta for a lovely tomato basil centered starter and Chicken Pomodoro for a crowd-pleasing main. End it all with my Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Dip. Chef’s kiss!!!
Pastina pasta with butter and cheese

Storing Suggestions

You can store this leftover star pasta recipe in an airtight container. It will keep for about 5 days!

To reheat, you can either pop in the microwave or do so on the stovetop. Either way I like to add a splash of chicken broth and slab of butter to liven things back up.

FAQs

How do I prevent pastina from sticking together?

I recommend stirring the pastina often while it is cooking to prevent sticking. You can also add olive oil or extra butter to the cooked pastina to further prevent this!

Using more chicken broth in the cooking process would also lead to a less sticky result.

Where can I find pastina?

You should be able to find pastina in most grocery stores in the pasta aisle! If you can’t find the exact pastina star-shaped pasta you could opt for another small shape. It will work just the same in this recipe.

Additionally if you can’t find pastina in your local grocery store, you will almost definitely be able to find it online!

Is orzo considered pastina?

Yes! Technically any tiny pasta shape is considered pastina.

However, the term most commonly refers to the star-shaped Stelline pasta.

Bowl of tiny star-shaped pasta with butter and parmesan cheese

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Connect With Me!

If you make this pastina pasta recipe or any of my other recipes, I would absolutely love to know! Tag me @wellnessbykay on Instagram so I can see and share your recreations.

Spoon scooping pastina topped with parmesan cheese and black pepper

Love this recipe? Leave a comment and a rating! I love to see and it helps me continue to develop delicious recipes for this blog.

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Easy Pastina Recipe (Creamy, Cheesy Comfort Food)

Pastina is the ultimate comfort food! Made with chicken broth, parmesan cheese, and butter … this tiny star-shaped pasta dish is cooked risotto-style to perfection in under 15 minutes. It is simple, delicious, and nicknamed “Italian Penicillin” for its healing, comforting nature. The perfect recipe to keep in your back pocket for a sick day!

  • Author: Kayla Berman
  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 Minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup dry pastina pasta
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 23 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions

  1. Add the pastina and chicken broth to a small pot or saucepan.  Bring to a gentle boil and stir often until the pasta is cooked to your liking and the chicken broth is almost all absorbed.
  2. Turn the heat to low and add in the freshly grated parmesan cheese, salted butter, and fresh garlic. Stir for a few minutes until thoroughly combined and the cheese is melted. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. You can also add extra chicken broth here for a saucier consistency. Make sure to mince the garlic finely and let cook thoroughly, so it does not overpower the dish.
  3. Serve and enjoy! I like to add extra butter and parmesan cheese on top.

Keywords: Pastina Pasta, What is pastina, Recipe for pastina, How to make pastina, what is pastina pasta, star pasta recipe, pastina recipe no egg, pastina noodles, pastina with butter

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