If you haven’t heard the news, I’m devastated to be the one to break it to you: Ronzoni has discontinued its production of pastina. In an announcement in early January, the company said that they couldn’t secure a producer for the tiny pasta shape and would no longer be offering it to its customers.
Fans were understandably upset. For many Italian Americans, pastina is more than an adorable, star-shaped pasta—it’s the nostalgic centerpiece of childhood. Picture: You are a kid. You have a cold. Your parent cooks pastina in broth and tops it with butter and Parmesan and brings it to you in bed. What could be better than that?
Alas, Ronzoni’s pastina may be gone (at least for now), but don’t worry, tiny pasta shape lovers, there is good news: There are other small pasta shapes that can fill the pastina-shaped hole in your heart. Though not all are one-to-one swaps for pastina, all are extremely cute.
Acini di Pepe
This pasta shape, which translates to “grains of pepper,” adds a burst of springy, chewy texture to any dish. Although slightly larger than the original pastina shape, acini di pepe still works well as a substitute. Try it with these brothy meatballs—the recipe calls for fregola, but acini di pepe would work well.
Speaking of fregola: This is another small, roughly spherical pasta that would absolutely love to step in for pastina. It’s a bit larger, which can offer a touch more toothsomeness, but we celebrate that. Fregola shines in pasta salads but also works wonders in concert with the bright snap of peas, airy mint, and luxurious ricotta in this remixed pasta e fagioli.
Much larger than Moroccan couscous but still small compared to most pasta shapes, Israeli couscous is known as ptitim in Hebrew. Like pastina, it’s made from semolina and fairly neutral in flavor, so it can support whichever flavor you choose to pair with it, you crazy kid.
As a short tubular pasta, ditalini is ready to scratch your nostalgic itch: Adult SpaghettiOs. This familiar classic is updated for your discerning adult palate—but at the end of the day, it can still do the heavy lifting as pasta in a soul-warming tomato sauce, made velvety smooth with a touch of cream and tweaked with a wink of spice. Also fun: this chicken tiny-noodle soup.
While it’s surprisingly controversial among our staff, orzo is a key player in many pasta salads. Is it the tiniest pasta? No. Will it give your dishes a hearty, chewy base? You bet. For the orzo doubters, try it in this one-skillet chicken recipe, where it rubs elbows with fennel, leeks, and lots of butter.
Yes! Stelline can still be found! It’s sold by several pasta brands that compete with Ronzoni, so you can still live out your pastina dreams. Grate your Parmesan, simmer your broth, and prepare your butter—stelline is here to save the day.