Pastina in Broth with Tiny Meatballs


Mangia Pasta!

Published by William Morrow

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Chicken broth and pastina, that was the soup that nourished me when I was a sick child, and the tradition continued with my children. Surely, tiny specks of pasta floating in a clear broth could I stymie the most stubborn cold and when it vanished the request was still there for pastina in other guises as well; cooked and mixed with lots of butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or with tomato sauce. Another favorite soup was pastina with marble-size meatballs, often served as a first course to Sunday dinner. Baking the meatballs instead of frying them keeps them light and tender, and eliminates adding any additional fat. Having chicken broth on hand makes this a soup that can be ready in no time.




Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

Recipe CourseAppetizer, Main Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free


Type of DishHot Soup, Soup


  • ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ pound ground beef chuck
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 scant teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 quarts homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup pastina or other small soup pasta such as stelline or orzo


  1. Combine the bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium-size bowl, mix the chuck, cheese, lemon zest, salt, and cloves just enough to combine the ingredients. Gently mix in the breadcrumb- and-milk mixture.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  3. Form tiny meatballs using about ½ teaspoon of the mixture and roll each ball between the palms of your hands. To keep your hands from sticking, dip them in water occasionally.

  4. Place the meatballs in an 8-inch baking pan or dish; bake them for 6 to 8 minutes, then remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper-towel-lined dish to drain.

  5. Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a 1 pot. Stir in the pastina and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the meatballs, lower the heat to medium, and cook about 3 minutes longer. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese if desired.

Notes :

  1. The meatballs can be made and frozen after cooking for future use. They’ll keep for several months. Other broths, such as beef, veal and vegetable, can also be used.


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