Cheesy Italian Pastina Recipe

Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli
Italian Cuisine Expert and Food Blogger
Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert

One of the first solid foods that kids eat in Italy is tiny little pasta generically called pastina, either in broth or mixed with cheese, veggies or some sort of homogenized food. So what exactly is pastina?

nonna box pastina recipe step by step

Pastina literally means tiny pasta shape, and it can come in all different forms, from dots and little stars to rings or mini tubes.

Cheesy pastina is a classic Italian comfort food that is creamy, cheesy and delicious. One could even say that it is the Italian mom version of the American comfort food mac n’ cheese. This recipe has cheese, butter and an egg, but pastina can also be served with broth (usually chicken broth) or vegetable broth resembling a chicken noodle soup.

What do you need to make Italian pastina recipe?

This creamy, cheesy comfort food is one of the easiest recipes we have ever shared, and we guarantee your kids will love it, even the big ones!

  • large pot
  • cheese grater
  • knife
  • wooden spoon
  • pasta strainer or colander
  • small bowl

This Italian pastina recipe is packed with protein and is delicious. You can make it in about 15 minutes from start to finish. Get started now and dinner is solved in no-time!

What ingredients are used in cheesy pastina?

ingredients for cheesy pastina layed on a table

Here are the few, simple ingredients needed to make the cheesy tiny pasta most Italian American moms raised their kids on, a true classic Italian comfort food and it is considered the “Italian penicillin” by many.

  • Pastina dried packaged pasta (0.66 lb / 300 grams) – you can find Italian pastina in any supermarket and there are lots of different brands to choose from, such as Barilla and Ronzoni pastina. There are also tons of different shapes and sizes, such as acini di pepe (shaped like a peppercorn), star shape (little stars often with holes in the middle), orzo (which is a pastina shaped like barley grain), anellini (little rings) and many more!
  • Butter (2 Tablespoons) – you can use either salted butter or unsalted butter (just add salt) or you can substitute with a mild flavored extra virgin olive oil instead.
  • Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup + for topping) – grated Parmiggiano Reggiano or freshly grated Parmesan cheese or any other semi-hard cheese that you love will work.
  • Egg (1) – let it come up to room temperature before using it.
  • Salt (to taste) – be sure not to add too much as the cheese is already salty, be especially careful if you are using salted butter.
  • Black pepper (optional) – some recipes call for black pepper, and you can definitely add it if you want a stronger flavor.

How to make cheese pastina step by step

Whether you choose tiny star shaped pasta, acini de pepe or little rings, this dish can be made in a few easy steps.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove top.
  2. Grate a little more than 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and set aside.
  3. When the water is boiling, add a small amount of coarse salt to the water (optional) and add the pastina, stirring occasionally. Be sure to read the instructions on the package for the specific type of pastina so that you cook it for the correct amount of time, which can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size.
    step by step instructions for making cheesy pastina: boil the water, add salt and add the pastina
  4. In a small bowl, beat the egg and then add salt, a 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water and the 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and mix well.
    step by step instruction for pastina recipe. In a bowl beat the egg, add a cup of pasta water then add the parmesan cheese
  5. When the small pasta is ready, drain it in a colander and put it back in the pot it was cooked in.
  6. Over low heat, add the butter in bits and then the egg and cheese mixture to the hot pasta and stir constantly for a minute or two or until the egg goes from shiny and raw to matte and cooked. Turn off the heat.
    step by step ingredients for making pastina. drain the pasta, then pour it back into the pot and add the butter and the egg mixture, mixing gently at low heat.
  7. Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the cooked pastina and serve immediately in individual bowls.
    pastina step by step, continue to mix the pastina then serve on a plate with parmesan on top

Expert tips for making pastina recipe

  • Don’t make scrambled eggs. Be sure to add warm pasta cooking water to your egg and to stir it quickly in to the cooked pasta and not to cook for too long, all of these can make your eggs turn into scrambled eggs instead of a creamy sauce.
  • Add milk for creaminess. If you want an even creamier Italian pastina, you can substitute warmed milk for the cooking water when mixing the egg and cheese together.

Pastina variations

  • Pastina in brodo. Pastina in broth is another of our favorite pastina recipes. Create a homemade chicken broth by boiling water with chicken, 1 peeled carrot, 1 peeled onion, 1 stalk of celery and a little tomato sauce, pepper and salt for several hours. Boil the pasta in a separate pot, drain when al dente and put directly into single-serving bowls and then laddle the chicken broth over it with a sprinkling of cheese on top and you have pastina in brodo.
  • Add something extra. If you are feeling creative, this pastina recipe is great with little additions as well. Try stirring in diced ham, cooked peas or broccoli, different types of grated cheese (like cheddar, swiss, pecorino romano cheese or whatever you love) or make it pop with black or cayenne pepper.

Try other comforting recipes:

cheesy pastina recipe delicious comfort food

FAQ

How long does pastina last?

Pastina is best served warm right after you make it. If you have leftover pastina, you can put it in an airtight container and store in the fridge for one or two days. To reheat, add a little water to a saucepan and put over low heat. Add the leftover pastina and heat stirring frequently but gently until warmed through. Add just a bit of grated Parmesan cheese to your bowl of pastina and serve.

What types of pasta can be used for pastina?

Any tiny pasta will work in this recipe, so feel free to experiment with different shaped pasta and brands such as Barilla or Ronzoni pastina.

What is the best way to cook pastina?

Pastina is usually cooked in boiling water, following the directions on the box for the length of time it should be cooked. It can also be cooked directly in chicken broth or soup and served warm.

What is the difference between orzo and pastina?

Orzo is a shape of pastina (little pasta) that resembles grains of barley. There are many other shapes of pastina, which simply means little pasta, such as stars, dots, rings, shells ecc.

What is the difference between pastina and risotto?

Pastina is a small pasta shape made from wheat flour while a risotto dish is made with rice cooked in broth with other flavorings usually.

image of cheesy pastina

Cheesy Pastina

The first food for most Italian kids once they start eating solid food is pastina. Pastina is cooked in boiling water in just 5-10 minutes and is so very versatile. It can be made into a creamy, cheesy pasta that is easy to eat because of the tiny pieces or it can be served with broth or veggie soups. Whatever shape you choose, this bowl of pastina is a comfort food you’ll love.
5 from 2 votes
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Course: Pasta
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 393kcal

Ingredients

  • 300 grams (0.66 lb) Pastina dried packaged pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons (2 Tablespoons) butter
  • 1/2 cup (1/2 cup) + topping grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 (1) egg
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove top.
  • Grate 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and set aside.
  • When the water is boiling, add a small amount of coarse salt to the water (optional) and add the pastina. Be sure to read the instructions on the package for the specific type of pastina so that you cook it for the correct amount of time, which can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size.
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg and then add a 1/4 cup of pasta water, a pinch of salt and the shredded Parmesan and mix well.
  • When the pasta is al dente, drain it in a colander and put it back in the pot it was cooked in.
  • Over low heat, add the butter in small bits to the pasta and then the egg and cheese mixture and stir constantly for a minute or two or until the egg goes from shiny and raw to matte and cooked. Turn off the heat.
  • Serve immediately with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.

Notes

  • Don’t make scrambled eggs. Be sure to add warm pasta cooking water to your egg and to stir it quickly in to the cooked pasta and not to cook for too long, all of these can make your eggs turn into scrambled eggs instead of a creamy sauce.
  • Add milk for creaminess. If you want an even creamier pastina, you can substitute warmed milk for the cooking water when mixing the egg and cheese together.
Serving: 100g | Calories: 393kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 265mg | Potassium: 196mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 332IU | Calcium: 172mg | Iron: 1mg
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