Comfort food comes in a variety of flavors for families worldwide but in my husband’s Italian-American childhood home, it was all about pastina. Little tiny stars of pasta simmered in chicken broth until tender and poured into a bowl of comforting buttery love—oh, and sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan. How does that sound?
When my son was born, I’ll never forget my mother-in-law, now known as Dedo, saying “Every Italian baby eats pastina.” Being a health focused foodie I wasn’t sure how often I would provide my son regular plain pasta but once I realized that every meal for my toddler wouldn’t consist of greens and chia seeds, pastina became a staple for my week. I save it for those nights when “I just can’t.” Those are the days when we (mom, dad, caregiver) feel like chickens with our heads chopped off when dinnertime finally rolls around. We need something easy, substantial, and delicious, am I right? Now, don’t misunderstand me, pastina is not unhealthy because it can be made fairly quickly. In fact, the reason I’m writing this post is to share that this traditional dish can be turned it into a vehicle for super foods, zooming nutrients right into your hungry child’s belly!
So here’s the scoop on this simple and savory dinner. Everything you need to create this meal you can keep in your fridge and pantry. Therefore it’s perfect for when you “just can’t” or when you’ve gotten in late from out of town and haven’t hit up the grocery store yet (don’t we all know that feeling!). Here’s what you’ll need: A box of pastina, lo sodium chicken broth, butter, and salt (I like Himalayan pink sea salt). I have also found that there are wonderful gluten-free, whole wheat, and veggie alphabet pastas that work just as well. These items can be found many health food grocery establishments. Additionally, you can omit regular butter and use extra virgin olive oil or a store bought vegan buttery spread if a dietary restriction is necessary.
To make pastina one must understand that there is no measuring involved (think of it as one less thing to think about!) However, if you aren’t comfortable with this and NEED numbers, simply follow the instructions on the box.
Dedo’s Classic Pastina
- Pour around 2 cups of chicken broth into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add around one cup of pastina.
- Let boil for a 3-4 minutes then turn down to a bubbly simmer stirring occasionally.
- Once pasta is tender and broth is mostly absorbed (similar to risotto), sprinkle salt and parmesan cheese.
- You may add more broth if needed and cook a bit longer, this only makes it more “creamy” and tender. Remember to stir occasionally so the pastina doesn’t stick to your saucepan.
Veggie Style Pastina
- Pour around 2 cups of lo sodium veggie broth into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add around a cup of pastina.
- Throw in your choice or combo of finely chopped broccoli, peas, shredded spinach, or kale.
- Let boil for a 3-4 minutes then turn down to a simmer stirring occasionally. Once pasta is tender and broth is mostly absorbed, sprinkle sea salt. I also like to add a little pepper, turmeric or curry powder.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner Pastina
- Pour around 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add around a cup of pastina.
- Throw in some finely diced pre-grilled grilled chicken (leftovers are great for this!).
- Let boil for a 3-4 minutes then turn down to a bubbly simmer stirring occasionally. Once pasta is tender and broth is mostly absorbed, sprinkle sea salt to taste.
A few final notes: Experiment and get creative! Try different broths, different seasonings, different meats and veggies, cheeses, whatever you heart desires. The beauty of making pastina is that there’s virtually no way for it not to be delicious. If you notice that you need more broth, add it. If you notice you need a bit more seasoning, add it. This is a no stress, easy meal to make for you and your kiddos. Lastly, pastina is great for sick days in bed. Bye, bye old fashioned canned chicken noodle, hello homemade pastina!
Thanks for reading and please share your creative versions on this Families Connect blog post once you’ve made pastina in your kitchen!
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Frances Sacripanti is a mother and personal wellness coach who specializes in health and fitness education, motivation and empowerment. A former health and physical education teacher, Frances has a passion for movement, health focused eating, and helping others to reach their health and wellness goals. She shares her philosophy and knowledge base through her website www.mindbodybespoke.com and her active Instagram page @mindbodybespoke.