bowl of pastina (little star pasta) with vegan parmesan

Pastina (Simple and Comforting Italian Recipe)

We all have days when we just need a bowl of comfort. No fuss, no hard-to-find ingredients — just warming cozy fare. This simple pastina dish hits the spot every time, and it even contains four hidden veggies. Serve this to your kids, a sick spouse, or eat it all by yourself in a pair of sweats in the winter. You’ll love how it’s:

  • Made with simple ingredients you probably already have
  • Rich and creamy without containing any dairy
  • Made in one pan

What Is Pastina?

Pastina is a general term for any ” small pasta” (as the word translates in Italian). It commonly takes the shape of “stellini” or little stars. As the smallest type of pasta produced in Italy, it’s often viewed as comfort food or baby food since it’s soft and easy to eat.

Different Shapes

There are many different shapes and types of pastina. Here are some of the most common:

  • Stellini (“little stars”)
  • Ditallini (“little thimbles”)
  • Annellini (“little rings”)
  • Fregola (Sardinian couscous)
  • Acini De Pepe (“seeds of a pepper”)
  • Orzo

Acini De Pepe vs Pastina

Acini de pepe is a type of pastina — translating to “seeds of a pepper” — whereas pastina is an umbrella term that encompasses all shapes of small pasta. The former is a symbol of fertility in some regions of traditional Italian cuisine, which is why it’s commonly used in Italian wedding soup.

How to Make Pastina

This dish comes together in 30 minutes. Here is an overview, with the full recipe at the end.

First, make the broth. Roughly chop some carrots, onions, and celery and place in a stock pot with one quart of water. Add a couple whole cloves of peeled garlic and two bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Remove the bay leaves.

Transfer the broth AND vegetables to a blender and blend until very smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.

Next, add the pastina and cook, stirring regularly so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pot. Add more water as needed so that the mixture doesn’t get too thick. The pastina should take about 20 minutes to cook thoroughly. Start taste testing at around 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper, and vegan parmesan, if desired.

Serving Suggestions

Serve this pastina similarly to how you’d serve a risotto. Because it’s so full of hidden veggies, it’s perfectly wonderful on its own as an entree. I also love serving it with a simple romaine lettuce salad on the side for something green and fresh. It works well as a side dish too, perhaps alongside something meaty like my roasted sausages and peppers or this vegan Impossible meatloaf. However you choose to enjoy it, make sure to add a sprinkle of dairy free parmesan on top!

The pastina saves well in the refrigerator for up to five days. It will thicken as it sits. To reheat it, add a splash of water to loosen it up before microwaving.

bowl of pastina (little star pasta) with vegan parmesan


This warming and comforting Italian-inspired pastina dish contains four hidden veggies and is great for kids or sick days.
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots (peeled)
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for serving)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper (plus more for serving)
  • 2 cups stellini (or other small pasta)
  • vegan parmesan (for serving, optional)


  • Roughly chop the onions, carrots, and celery. Don't worry about making the cuts perfect — everything will go in the blender after it's cooked.
  • Add the vegetables to a heavy-bottomed skillet along with the whole peeled garlic cloves and bay leaves. Add one quart of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
  • Remove the bay leaves and transfer everything to a blender along with the salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Blend until very smooth and return to the saucepan, bringing to a boil again.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add the pasta. Scrape the bottom frequently to keep the pasta from scorching, and cook about 20 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. You'll need to add about two more cups of water halfway through cooking.
  • Taste the pasta — once it is al dente, remove from heat and serve, topped with freshly cracked black pepper, olive oil, and vegan parmesan, if desired.


Did you try this pastina recipe?

Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to rate 5 stars!

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