What Is Pastina & Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

A popular pasta brand just announced it will no longer manufacture the product, and the internet is up in arms.

A box of Ronzoni pastina pasta on a blue background
Photo: Ronzoni/Dotdash Meredith

These days we've become accustomed to product shortages and discontinuations, whether due to supply chain issues, costs, or other consequences of the pandemic. But there are still announcements that come along that break your heart. This week, I experienced one of those.

Ronzoni, the popular pasta brand, announced that it would no longer be selling Pastina. In a January 4 Instagram post, the company stated that it was discontinuing the product after learning that its long-term supplier would no longer make the shape as of this month. After failing to identify an alternative supplier, Ronzoni made the "difficult decision" to pull the product from their lineup.

Despite the brand only having just over 5K followers on the platform, this Instagram post garnered over 11K "likes" and over 1,700 comments. They ranged from devastated, "This is an absolute tragedy," to angry, "there's still time to delete this and change ur minds ronzoni," to downright hilarious, "You'll be getting a call from my nonna."

So it's a shape of pasta. What's with the outrage? Why are people so invested in a pasta shape? Allow me — an avid pastina lover — to explain.

What Is Pastina?

Technically speaking, pastina is any small shape of pasta with a diameter of around 1.5 to 2 millimeters. Since the term "pastina" encompasses all small shapes of pasta, it comes in many shapes and goes by many names. You may see round pastina called "acini di pepe" (pepper seeds in Italian), or star-shaped pastina called "stelline" (meaning little stars in Italian). However, in the United States, most of the pastina we find is star-shaped.

Since it is much smaller than other pasta shapes, pastina is typically treated more like rice than pasta. It's commonly cooked into soup or prepared in a similar fashion to risotto, with chicken broth, Parmesan cheese, and sometimes even egg to make it extra creamy.

So what's the big deal with this little pasta? It's all about the context.

Why People Love Pastina

Pastina is pure comfort food for Italians, especially Italian-Americans. I grew up in a part of New Jersey with a big Italian population and several amazing Italian grocers in our town. We called pastina, "Italian Penicillin" because it is largely seen as a comfort food when someone is sick — according to Nonnas everywhere, it'll cure what ails you.

Upset stomach? Put on a pot of pastina. Came down with a bad cold or the flu? Pastina is the cure. Just got your wisdom teeth out? Time for pastina.

It's also seriously fast to make. Since it's so small, you can go from a few ingredients to a warm bowl of pasta in under 15 minutes, making it a popular choice to cook for hungry (or worse, hangry) kids.

For many Italian-Americans, pastina is also the comfort food they grew up eating since they were babies. A bowl full of pastina is equivalent to chicken noodle soup or matzo ball soup; It nourishes the body, but more importantly the soul. That's why it's understandable that people are seriously emotional over Ronzoni's announcement.

a bowl of pastina pasta with cheese and pepper.
Courtney Kassel

What's more, pastina is having a moment on social media right now! Since the summer, tens if not hundreds of tutorials and recipes for pastina have gone viral on TikTok and Instagram. Scrolling through the tag #pastina has over 77M views, with many, many individual videos garnering millions of views.

One such creator, @yummytoddlerfood, whose pastina video garnered over 2.5M views on TikTok and 1.7M views on Instagram, made the point that Ronzoni's timing wasn't exactly great. She commented on their post, "If only it had been widely available enough to sell — or the brands discontinuing it reached out to us influencers with viral pastina recipes…you missed your new stream of customers!"

The Bottom Line

The good news is several other brands still manufacture pastina and sell it in the States. Barilla, Colavita, San Giorgio, and Target's private label Good & Gather all make versions of pastina that are still available. However, I understand the fear that once one brand stops production that others will follow if the costs of supply do truly outweigh the demand.

So, while I wouldn't encourage you to go to the store and grab every box of pastina on the shelf, buying a box or two might be a good way to send a message to the brands selling pastina that there is still very much a demand for it. You won't regret getting a box; Pastina is really the perfect food to keep on hand in the winter months for any sick days, or just extra cold nights.

Feeling hungry? Suddenly craving a bowl of creamy, cheesy pastina? Give this chicken and pastina soup a try — it's like a warm hug in a bowl.

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