Pastina is a comforting Italian staple that kids love. Here the pastina pasta is simmered into a vegetable soup for a comforting one-pot meal.
When our kids were babies and eating solids but didn’t have many teeth yet, pastina pasta with olive oil was one of their favorite things. A common first pasta and first solid food in most Italian households, this tiny pasta is loaded with comfort and nostalgia.
This simple pastina soup recipe is easy to adapt, adjusting to your family’s personal tastes. You can go simple with just broth and pasta, or load it with veggies. This pastina soup is very much like another favorite, Pasta e Ceci. For a whole grain Italian soup see our Italian Farro Vegetable Soup.
What is Pastina?
Pastina, pronounced “pa-stee-nuh” means “little pasta” and is a very common food for young children in Italy. It’s the smallest type of pasta you can buy and cooks in about 5 minutes. Its usually prepared very simply in broth, soups, or with a little olive oil.
There are several pasta varieties you can use to make pastina:
How to Cook Pastina
- In water. You can cook pastina just like any other pasta by boiling in a pot of salted water and then straining through a fine mesh sieve (the little pieces are too small for a colander). Then simply dress with a little olive oil. Check the cook time on the box. It’s usually between 4 and 6 minutes.
Pastina with a bit of oil is a very popular food for toddlers. It’s so simple, but so tasty and comforting. I think of it as the Italian version of American mac and cheese. Some people cook a creamy pastina with milk.
You can also use it the same way you would a pilaf type of side dish.
- In broth. In this soup recipe, the uncooked pastina is added directly to the broth and veggies. For an even simpler version, some cook the pastina in homemade broth and don’t add anything else. Many people add it to homemade chicken broth. When cooking pasta in soups cook just until barely al dente, as the pasta will continue cooking in the hot broth.
Can I Make Pastina in the Instant Pot?
This soup is very easy to make on the stove or in the Instant Pot. Cook on high pressure for just 3 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for 5 minutes before manually releasing the remaining pressure.
Like our Instant Pot Lentil Soup don’t add any greens until after cooking. I find it’s easy to overcook things in the Instant Pot, so it’s best to cook for a shorter amount of time and then simmer longer (on saute mode) if needed.
Pastina Soup Variations
- Skip the spinach or tomatoes and stir in 1 cup thawed frozen peas at the end.
- Simmer in a diced zucchini or yellow squash in the summer.
- Boost the protein with 1 can (1 1/2 cups) of drained cannellini beans or chickpeas.
- Add spice with red pepper flakes.
- Stir in a dollop of pesto for more flavor.
More Italian Family Favorites
- Classic Pizza Dough
- Authentic Pizza Sauce
- Traditional Tomato Bruschetta
- Mushroom Risotto
- Instant Pot Minestrone
- Tuscan Farro Salad
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery sticks, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 4 cups cups broth*
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup diced (canned) tomatoes
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2/3 cup uncooked pastina
- 3 cups baby spinach
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute more.
- Add the salt, pepper, broth, water, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
- Add the uncooked pasta and stir, scraping up any that get stuck to the bottom. Simmer for 10 minutes, until pasta is al dente.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach just until wilted, about 1 minute.
- Serve the pastina soup right away, as the pastina will thicken and absorb more liquid Add more water or broth to thin as needed. Garnish with fresh parsley and season to taste with more salt and pepper. I like to add red pepper flakes for some heat.
Pastina, orzo, ancini di pepe, stelline, and ditalini all work here.
*This is a simple soup, so the flavor of the broth really makes a difference. It's best with Better Than Bouillon, No Chicken Base, which tastes like classic chicken soup.
Instant Pot Instructions
Follow the recipe until step 3, but instead of simmering on the stove, lock the Instant Pot lid, with valve sealing and set to manual/pressure cook (high) for 3 minutes. Once the cook time is complete, naturally release the pressure for 5 minutes before carefully quick releasing the rest. Wilt in the spinach.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 127Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 5g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.