Pastine pasta is often called soup pasta, best used in light and thin soups. It can refer to a variety of tiny pasta shapes. Typically, if you buy pastina, you’re purchasing little star shaped pasta. Pastine pasta includes many different shapes, though, not just tiny star shapes. It can include mini shells, rounds, and pearl type pastas. Orzo and tubettini, and even couscous may be considered pastine pasta.
One rule to consider, especially when making broth-based soups, is that thin soups go best with smaller pasta. This isn’t always true. Chicken broth with nice wide noodles may be just as delicious, or even more so than it is when pastine pasta is used.
Though pastine pasta shapes may be used most often in soups, they have plenty of other applications. Tiny pearl shapes, rounds, or the like, can be delicious tossed with butter or olive oil, with a little basil and garlic for flavoring. This can be served hot as a side dish or entrée, or vinaigrette dressing can be added and the pasta becomes a wonderful cold dish to take on picnics. Pastine is probably ill suited to heavy sauces, especially those with ground meat, since the pasta can get lost and overwhelmed.
Some people are leery of consuming too much pasta since low carb dieting became popular. If you look at natural foods stores, you can find a variety of whole grain pasta in pastine sizes. Even some baby foods companies have triumphed pastine. Earth’s Best®, which prides itself on making only organically certified baby food, sells boxed pastina, which uses whole grain wheat. It makes a great pasta choice for kids for lunch or dinner, but can also be served as a breakfast dish too.
Pastine of the whole grain variety or in the classic semolina isn’t just for Italian food. Tiny pastina, or other shapes can be used with mint, saffron and herbs to create Middle Eastern inspired dishes. One unusual recipe, called Easter pizza, combines pastini with hardboiled eggs, pepperoni and cheese to top a traditional pizza crust. Once you get used to cooking pastine of any type, you’ll find it’s a great substitute for rice, and it has many potential applications in recipes.
The one thing you should be careful of when cooking pastine pasta, is the way you drain the pasta. If the pasta is really small, be sure to choose a colander with very small holes so you don’t lose pasta pieces when you drain it. Pasta strainers may be a better choice than the standard colander, since you can skim the tiny noodles off the top of the boiling water, as soon as they rise to the surface.