There are more pasta shapes in the world than there are stars in the sky. And the actual “star” of the pasta world is pastina, the little star-shaped pasta that goes great in soups. Sadly, pasta producing giant Ronzoni made the devastating decision to discontinue pastina in the beginning of 2023. So let’s pour one out (a bowl of chicken broth), for this mighty, tiny pasta.
What is pastina?
The Ronzoni brand pastina is a five-pointed star shape that is about the size of a ladybug. In fact, a ladybug could probably huck a piece of pastina up on its back and haul it home for dinner.
Even though it goes by that name, a more accurate name is stellina. That’s because pastina in Italian means “little pasta” and actually refers to a wide variety of pasta that is small. Orzo is pastina. Ditalini is pastina. Alphabet pasta is pastina. Those are the only really small pastas I can name off the top of my head, but there are lots more.
So how, in North America, did star-shaped pasta come to represent all of pastina? Well, Ronzoni has been cranking out pasta since 1915 and, somewhere along the way, they slapped the pastina name on their stellina shape. And now they are killing it!
How is pastina used?
Growing up, my Italian grandmother always prepared pastina as comfort food when we were sick. A bowl of pastina and chicken broth will cure what ails you. But it also goes great in pretty much any soup, especially broth-y ones with not a lot of ingredients in it. I personally love pastina in tomato soup. With a grilled cheese. With pickles… I’ll be right back; I’m going to make this now.
Pastina’s size also makes it great for babies: easy to mush, easy to swallow. My sister would slap a spoonful of pastina on my nephew’s high chair tray and he would go to town.
Why did Ronzoni discontinue pastina?
Because Ronzoni hates us and wants us to suffer.
The real reason is supply issues. Apparently, Ronzoni gets their pastina from an outside source that is retiring from the pastina game. They claim it’s very difficult to churn out those tiny stars and requires “specialized production.”
Reading between the lines, it probably means that they can’t make pastina on the same machine they make all their other pastas, so to cut costs and maximize profits, they are shutting the whole thing down.
The baffling thing about it all is Ronzoni’s response. “We searched extensively for an alternative solution but were unable to identify a viable option to make pastina in the same beloved small shape, size, and standards you have come to expect.” Hey Ronzoni, you ain’t the only pastina makers in the game. You mean to tell me that no one out there can crank out some stars? Get it together.
Where can I buy pastina?
If you are willing to switch brand loyalties, you can still get pastina in a lot of places. Barilla, De Cecco, even Goya have their own star-shaped pasta. And Ronzoni pastina can be found on the internet; they even still list the pasta on their website. So, I don’t know what to believe. All I know is that my dearly departed grandmother is spitting on Ronzoni from heaven for this betrayal.