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Pastina is any one of a number of very small pastas. These egg and flour pasta creations are made in extremely small pieces. Pastina developed as a classical Italian recipe, much like the various larger pastas that many of these pasta shapes are based on, but today, in many parts of the world, it is often made in factories, and sold by large food manufacturers.
As a rule, pastina pieces are generally not more than a few dozen millimeters long or wide. They are made in different shapes, from stars and letters of the alphabet to simple oval pieces. Many of these tiny pasta are also in identical shapes to more traditional larger pastas; for example, diminutive bowties and shells are popular choices.
In terms of its role in classic Italian food, the pastina is often used in soups or served in broth. This food element is used in some recipes for Italian wedding soup. It is also used in simple dishes meant for children, especially in its more modern incarnations.
Although modern pastina recipes often involve pre-made soups, like canned tomato soups, other recipes are much more traditional or old-world. For example, some cooks who have ancestry in Italy refer to a classic method for using pastina that involves simply letting the tiny pastas ingest all of the water in a pan, and then adding butter and egg to the mix. In some cases, a raw egg is added to the hot pasta and whipped until cooked. Cooks should always take all appropriate caution with raw eggs, and adhere to recognized food standards.
The modern appeal of pastina represents how a visual component can change the way that an audience enjoys food. The actual composition of the small pasta is the same as that of larger pasta items, but the presentation has a unique attraction. Upscale restaurants may get a lot of benefit from adding this item to soups or entrees on a child’s menu, and many parents love the potential for quick cooking that these pastas accommodate.
For more sophisticated palates, cooks might add specific flavoring agents to the pasta and broth mix, even where there is no formal soup recipe for a pastina creation. Common elements include some of the most frequently attributed classic Italian herbs and spices, from oregano, to basil and parsley. Parmesan cheese, or other ingredients, may also add to one of these mini-pasta meals.
I saw the small pastina pasta in our local grocery store and had to try some. My favorite way of using it is to add it to just about any kind of soup, but my favorites are a chicken pastina soup and minestrone.
I use the small shaped pasta in place of rice or other pasta noodles when making the soup. It does expand when cooked like any other kind of pasta, but because it is so small to start out with, does not seem to take up as much room - depending on how much you pour in the broth.
My kids love the alphabet pastina. Even though this type of pasta is very small, they enjoy picking out the letters of their name. We have a Barilla pasta plant in our community, so always have several different pastas to choose from.
Kids usually eat pasta very well, and having the fun different shapes makes it even more enjoyable for them. Another plus is that it doesn't take very long to make, so you can get it on the table in a hurry.
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