With just a handful of simple ingredients, you can make this cozy Pastina Soup to share with the kids in under 30 minutes. This is a perfect fast meal for any night of the week—or one that’s extra nourishing for anyone dealing with a cold or illness.

Pastina soup in numerous bowls with spoons and sides.

Pastina Soup

Tiny star pasta soup was one of the staples of my Italian-American childhood, and it’s something my kids adore eating now. The shape of the tiny pasta, or pastina, is so fun, and the rest of the ingredients add plenty of cozy flavor. I love how fast this soup for kids cooks up, how easy it is to adjust (sometimes I omit the onion and use more carrot, for example), and how much it helps us all feel satisfied and nourished.

We usually have this soup with cheese and crackers, but even just a side of Homemade Applesauce would do it, too. Whatever works!

(It ranks right up with Alphabet Soup and Chicken Soup as one of my kids very favorite soups. And classic Pastina Pasta, which is thicker.)

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Pastina soup in two bowls with spoons.

What is Pastina?

Pastina is a very small star-shape pasta that cooks incredibly fast. Pastina pasta is often served to babies and children, as it is easy to eat and swallow. Italian pastina soup is also incredibly comforting when made and paired with butter, egg, or broth, like we do here.

Many pasta brands make it, including Barilla, Anna, and Colavita. You may have more success finding it in supermarkets with larger Italian sections. Target’s store brand also makes little pasta in the shape of stars that is a little big larger but very similar.

You can also use acini di peppe, which is a small couscous-like pasta shape.

Ingredients You Need

Here’s a look at what you need to make this Italian soup recipe so you know what to have on hand:

Ingredients for pastina soup on countertop.
  • Minced celery, carrot, and onion: You can mince this yourself in homemade mirepoix or look for pre-chopped mirepoix in the produce or freezer aisle of your store.
  • Low-sodium chicken broth: I like to use broth with less salt so I can control that flavor myself. Feel free to use vegetable broth or beef broth if you prefer. You can use store-bought or homemade chicken broth or chicken stock. Or my Vegetable Broth.
  • Star pastina: Look for this in the pasta aisle of your store.
  • Frozen petite peas: We stir these in at the end for a bright color and a little more protein.
  • Parmesan cheese: This adds flavor to the easy soup.
  • Fresh lemon zest (optional): You can top the soup with fresh lemon juice and zest for additional bright flavor.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s an overview of the method of making this soup for kids. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full information on amounts and times.

how to make pastina soup in grid of 4 images.
  1. Add the celery, carrot, and onion to a pot over medium heat. Cook.
  2. Add the broth and raise the heat to high. When the broth starts to boil, turn down the heat to simmer.
  3. Add the pasta. Cook.
  4. Stir in the peas, Parmesan, and lemon zest, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Pastina soup in kids bowl with spoon.

How to Store

Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Warm in a heat-safe bowl in the microwave, adding additional broth if desired.

This Italian comfort food is delicious as reheated leftovers sent in a kids thermos for school lunch for kindergarten, too.

Best Tips for Success

  • Use vegetable broth to make this kids soup vegetarian.
  • Add cooked and diced or shredded skinless chicken breasts or chicken meatballs for a variation on the idea. Or serve with a side salad if you’d like.
  • Make this easier by starting with pre-cut mirepoix from the produce aisle of your supermarket.
  • Simmer Parmesan rind in the broth for extra flavor.
  • Add shredded fresh herbs to top, such as basil or parsley, or cracked black pepper.
  • If you can’t find tiny star pasta, try another small shape such as ditalini, ABC pasta, wagon wheels, acini di peppe, or orzo.
  • When reheating, add more broth as desired if the pasta absorbs it all.

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Pastina soup in numerous bowls with spoons and sides.

Quick Pastina Soup

With just a handful of simple ingredients, you can make this cozy Pastina Soup to share with the kids in under 30 minutes. Look for little star "pastina" pasta in the pasta aisle.
5 from 94 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Dinner
Calories 289kcal
Servings 4 -6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup minced celery (about 1 stalk, ends discarded)
  • ½ cup minced carrot (about 1 carrot, ends discarded)
  • ½ cup minced onion (about 1 small onion peeled and ends discarded)
  • 1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup star pastina
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste (optional)
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Instructions

  • Add the olive oil to a medium pot over medium heat. When warm, add the celery, carrot, and onion. Stir to coat and cook for 2 minutes, or until just starting to soften.
  • Add the broth and raise the heat to high. When the broth starts to boil, turn down the heat to medium so it simmers.
  • Add the pasta. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the peas, Parmesan, and lemon zest, if using.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Notes

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge. Warm in a heat-safe bowl in a small pot or in the microwave, adding broth if desired.
  • Use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian.
  • Make this easier by starting with pre-cut mirepoix from the produce aisle of your supermarket.
  • Simmer Parmesan rind in the broth for extra flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 289kcal, Carbohydrates: 42g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 11mg, Sodium: 1210mg, Potassium: 296mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 3115IU, Vitamin C: 17mg, Calcium: 144mg, Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This soup has become my go-to when sick. It’s quick to make, the amount lasts a number of days and tastes great. Highly recommend.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve made this soup many times in the past few months, it’s quick and easy. The one thing to know is that the pasta stars will sop up the leftover broth, but honestly my toddler is not a master of soup-eating so it’s not a big issue for us. You could have a little more broth on standby if you want to add it to the leftovers. Also — grate your own parmesan, pre-grated (or at least stuff in the green Kraft shaker) will cause blobs of cheese! Not a huge issue, but a little distressing if it’s meant for a baby or toddler.

  3. 5 stars
    I have made this at least once a week this winter season. Easy to double and great with leftover shredded chicken thrown in. Fantastic!

  4. 5 stars
    This tasted amazing especially with all the colds going through our house! Just what we needed. I loved it as did our 18 month old – and so easy to make! Have everything out to make another batch tonight!

  5. 5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious. I didn’t think my 21 month old would enjoy it as much as he did. It just tastes like comfort. A big hug. I’m obsessed. I proportioned the leftovers and froze them. I’m curious to see how they thaw!

  6. 5 stars
    Doubled the recipe, used orzo, added a rotisserie chicken, a few bay leaves and reduced the parm by half since that’s all I had on hand. Also sauteed the carrots & celery while I deboned the chicken so they cooked a bit longer than listed. This soup was terrific and the house full of sick people loved it!

  7. 5 stars
    This was perfect for today! My 3 year old woke up with a stomach bug this morning and I didn’t have much for groceries. This recipe was easy to make from pantry and produce staples that I had. Luckily, I had some orzo to sub for pastini. Since he is used to more complex flavors (and because I was going to be eating it for lunch too), I added minced garlic, ginger and turmeric.

  8. 5 stars
    I’m starting to get sick right before Thanksgiving! I made this soup this afternoon as an early dinner for me and the the kids. They loved it and went back for seconds. I skipped the lemon zest. It’s so yummy! Total comfort soup. Thank you!

    1. Oh good! Yes, you can freeze it though you’ll want to add more broth when reheating as it will absorb most of it.

  9. 5 stars
    I make this soup weekly. To be honest, I know this is a website for toddler food but I have made many recipes for myself for easy, simple and good meals.

  10. 5 stars
    This recipe is delicious!

    I added quinoa and couscous instead of pastina, so I doubled the water/broth recipe. I also didn’t mince the veggies and left them in bite sized pieces because I had some extra time – 30 mins of boiling altogether worked perfectly. (Though of course my daughter didn’t eat the bite sized pieces, and can see the genius of mincing the veggies now) I also added spinach at the end in addition to the peas. As well as Italian seasoning and fresh cilantro with the lemon zest and Parmesan zest.

  11. We prefer our veggies a little softer in our soups and had no broth left when we were done. Not sure what we did wrong.

  12. 5 stars
    I’ve made this once this week and my husband also made it for me tonight since I’m isolating with covid. He is not a cook and he was able to make this with flying colors! It’s so delicious, quick, simple, and easy! I didn’t have celery on hand, so I used zucchini that I got from the farmers market. I can’t have onion or lemon, so I used shallot and left the lemon out. I can’t have cheese, either (I’m on a migraine diet), so I left that out as well. I added lots of herbs and seasonings including a bay leaf, thyme, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, ground pepper, turmeric, ground ginger, and extra minced garlic. The aromas in my kitchen were amazing! My daughter also loved it! This recipe is a keeper, for sure!

  13. 5 stars
    This was an absolute winner with my 21 month old! I used bone broth for added protein. I love how flexible the recipe can be with add ins such as chicken etc and I like using parmesan rinds in soups for added flavor.
    Just got your new cookbook in the mail today! Yummy toddler food has been one of my favorite websites/instagrams to follow for baby & toddler recipes 🙂

  14. 5 stars
    My kids and I love this soup so much! My husband even says to put it on the weekly repeat menu.
    I decided to make this for a group of kids for lunch in a couple weeks and trying to figure out what to pair it with. Any suggestions?

  15. 5 stars
    I love your recipes for their approachability and because they’re easy to build off of! I’ve never been much in the kitchen but having a little one has made cooking a necessity and I’m easily daunted by most recipes I find online and in cookbooks. This recipe felt doable for me and it was! I’m using bone broth, added in fresh garlic to the sauté and fresh ginger, a bay leaf and thyme to the boil. I’m also cooking the pasta separately as I’ve only got larger shapes and I don’t want them absorbing all the broth. My husband is impressed and fingers crossed my toddler with a cold will enjoy. 🤞🏽 thank you for your awesome recipes!

  16. 5 stars
    This is going in our regular rotation it is so yummy and simple. Makes great leftovers too. Our fave gluten free pasta just came out with stars so I made this immediately! They really make the dish extra fun.

  17. If you have trouble finding small pasta, check the ethnic foods aisle. I found the pasta with the Hispanic foods.

  18. 5 stars
    This has become one of my favorite soups! I typically add the Parmesan rind while cooking and leave out the lemon and it turns out perfectly every time. Personal preference – I love the texture of this for leftovers after all the broth is absorbed as well!

  19. 5 stars
    I want to love this so much – the flavor is definitely there, but my little stars always suck up all of the broth and it turns to mush. (Even when using extra broth) any tips to keep it soupy?

    Thank you! ❤️

    1. You can simply add a little broth to each bowl as you serve it. That shouldn’t be absorbed between the time you add it and the time you eat it.

  20. 5 stars
    Just made this for my family- my husband is not feeling well and it was the first thing he ate in three days- he had two bowls! I have searched out local grocery stores but only found the star shaped pasta at Target as mentioned in the post. I added in turmeric and ginger for immune boosting. I do have one question! My Parmesan clumped together in the soup- I used Whole Foods pre-grated. How can I avoid the clumping?

  21. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazing! Delicious and comes together quickly. We have made it a weekly staple in our house! I tweaked it a bit. I do half an onion in the olive oil. I used bone broth this most recent time. Then I do half cup of pastina and add rotisserie chicken. I cook it halfway and then add frozen peas and carrots as my veggies. Absolutely delicious!!! 5 stars from myself, my husband, and our 2 and 1 year old boys 🙂

  22. 5 stars
    This has become THE MOST REQUESTED food in our house, even above fruit and muffins. So simple to make, stores and freezes well, so do yourself a favour and make a double batch!!

  23. 5 stars
    It’s so easy and yummy! Can this be made in a slow cooker?

    Our family has loved trying your recipes, thank you!

  24. 5 stars
    This was a hit with my 5 and 3 year olds! We didn’t even need to add additional salt, the cheese salted the soup just fine.

  25. 5 stars
    This was so easy to put together and it turned out so good! The lemon and parm at the end are *chef’s kiss.* We’ll see if the little guy approves but if not, more for me! Thank you for another great and EASY recipe!

  26. 5 stars
    Loved this! Super quick and simple to make. Definitely 3 year old approved. Couldn’t find the right pasta so used mini bow ties – she still thought they were super fun.

  27. 5 stars
    Tasty soup! Instead of lemon zest I just mixed in a bit of lemon juice, and it turned out great. Thanks for this recipe.

    1. Sure, it would be fine for up to about 6 months. When thawed, add a little more broth to reheat and serve.

  28. 5 stars
    When using parmesan, is the parmesan supposed to clump up? The melted parmesan wraps around the serving spoon when stirring the soup and hardens in clumps when cooling off.

    1. 5 stars
      If you’re getting clumping you may not be using fresh grated parmesan. Parmesan in containers often has an additive to it to keep it from sticking… might be why it’s clumping?