Pastina in Brodo and Random Musings on Soup

I am rather partial to soup. I make it often and in every season for two reasons: I hate sandwiches for lunch and I find soup restorative. Winter soups often tend to be hearty, loaded with vegetables and added beans or pulses, barley, rice or pasta or they are thick vegetable purées such as pumpkin or celery soup. Each member of the family has their favourite. Noah can eat barley and vegetable soup all day, Mischa is a pumpkin soup girl, and Daisy can smell stock bubbling on the stove from a mile off. Charlotte wants Andrew’s soup, her title for Minestrone and Oliver will only eat zucchini soup.

As the vegetable stock reheats on the stove, I have been reflecting on the contraction of the English language when it comes to soup. We do have other terms for soup but most of them are French in derivation and are not exactly quotidian, reserved only for fine dining restaurants. (consomme´and potage come to mind).  Speaking of restaurants, did you know that the word restaurant (meaning something restoring) was first used in France in the 16th century to refer to a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup sold by street vendors, that was advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion?

Pastina in Brodo
Pastina in Brodo

The Italian language is more precise when it comes to soup.  Zuppa (Soup) is more often called minestra but when it is loaded with a variety of ingredients, it becomes a minestrone. ( the suffix ‘one’ meaning big, large or long which can be added to any noun). A creamy puree´ soup is a crema or crema di verdura , where the vegetable may be named.  Pumpkin soup then becomes Crema di Zucca. A light brothy soup is brodo. Pastina are small pasta shapes, often made of egg dough.

As I have some stock left from my onion soup recipe, a light broth with a little egg pasta and parmesan becomes a five-minute lunch.

Pastina in Brodo 

  • vegetable stock
  • egg pasta, small shapes ( Pastina)
  • grated parmesan, Reggiano or Grana Padano

Heat broth to boiling point, season, add the egg pasta and cook as per packet instructions, then serve with ample grated parmesan cheese.

A slightly longer version includes  beginning with a little soffrito of finely chopped onion, carrot and celery, cook in oil on medium heat until softened, then add the broth and proceed as above. Or heat the stock, add loads of finely chopped fresh herbs and the parmesan.

The beauty of this broth depends on the quality of the stock. Comforting and restorative.

My Favourite Pastina by La Triestina company, Brunswick.
My Favourite Pastina by La Triestina company, Brunswick.

Italian proverbs on soup. 

Sei come la forchetta nel brodo, non servi a niente– You are like a fork in the soup, you’re useless.

Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo– an old hen makes the best broth. – Experience is a virtue.

Il brodo di rane fa venir sani– A broth of frogs makes one healthy. Really???This expression must come from Pavia.

Chi ha la mestola in mano, si fa la minestra a suo modo. Who holds the ladle, makes the soup in their own way- Having power to act in their own way by imposing their will.

Minestra di cannelini, zucca, pastina e cavaolo nero.
Minestra di cannelini, zucca, pastina e cavolo nero.

A Soup Retrospective on Almost Italian includes:

French onion soup-

Pasta and chickpea soup.

My favourite soup, Silver beet, cannellini beans and pasta -

Turkish red lentil soup-

Spring vegetable soup-

Italian Mussel soup-

Chowder (cullen skink)-

Minestra di Verdura
Minestra di Verdura

21 thoughts on “Pastina in Brodo and Random Musings on Soup”

  1. My children have grown up eating brodo with pastina with a good sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. They were introduced to this easy lunch by their Nonno and Nonna as toddlers and have loved it ever since so we always have chicken stock and pasta on hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, such a lovely comment Mary. Food memories are so ingrained in our consciousness. Your children must be reminded of their Nonni every time they have Pastina in Brodo.


  3. It’s true, food memories are ingrained in our consciousness. I remember watching my grandmother make her delicious vegetable soup. She would send us to the corner store to get 25 cents worth of shin bone for the broth!! I love soups too, and you have inspired me as to the fate of the pumpkin in my fridge! Restorative and informative, a lovely post. Thank you Francesca.


    1. Thanks Ardy. I think your slow cooker might be perfect to make things with bones ( I am thinking of Celia’s latest post here). My mother and grandmother also made soups like your grandmother did- usually they used lamb shanks. Now my mother, who is 92, makes it every week for her great grand daughter who visits each week. Little Samardi ( 15 months old) will have very strong food memories- the Nanna soups live on and on. The veggo version of that old soup with lots of barley is the one I make for young Noah. We transfer a lot of culture, as well as love, through soup.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love those Italian sayings, especially the old hen. Soups are definitely comforting. I make them in every season. Really love the vegetable broth you made initially for the onion soup. I bet it was also wonderful with pasta and a sprinkling of cheese.


  5. Lovely, I could live on soup and bread and these look beautiful. All so hearty, I don’t think I would have a favourite.Thanks for the retrospective, will have to spend some time there I think. I want a nonna like Mary’s children have!


  6. Pastina is a regular in the Napoli household. Its quick after work, delicious, incredibly cost effective, and filling. I will also throw in a handful of peas or some baby spinach or some cubed zucchini at the end. Sometimes I’ll also beat an egg through it. It is also what every Italian nonna and mamma feeds babies once they are on solids, using stelline. Love those square pasta shapes, must keep an eye out.


    1. The square Australian egg pasta shapes ones are lovely. My dear friend Olga taught me about using Pastina for little ones in her autobiography, ‘Piccola Quercia’. When she was at the migrant camp in Bonegilla in the 50s, she searched for these little shapes to feed her babies as the food was so unsuitable in the camp. She was also from Naples. I miss her, my Italian mentor.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love soup but it’s only in the last couple of years that I eat it for a meal. In Chinese meals it’s part of a series of dishes so it’s rarely the whole meal (unless there are loads of noodles in it of course). But soups like this are perfect for a whole meal! Love the pre portioned pasta squares.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This soup addict adores this post and ponderings. I am gearing up to try making your roasted veggie stock this week. There is nothing more restorative than a good bowl of soup. Impossible on my work days but the way to go on any other winter day.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was hungry before I started reading this .. but you have done it! I’m zooming indoors for some lunch, and I just happen to have the remainder of that onion soup to enjoy! Perfect .. thanks for all the wonderful recipes Francesca 🙂 I shall pass on the broth of frogs 😉


    1. My Italian wwoofer, who lives on a rice farm near Pavia in Italy, is quite fond of frogs in …. risotto!!! They have lots of frogs there, given the flooding of rice, so I guess they are a traditional thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I still have vege stock and French onion soup on my mind, and a thick roast pumpkin & vege soup variation mentioned in a comment about my pumpkin soup… and now this. I love light flavoursome broths with just a bit of something in them, and often find a simple cup of miso convenient and restorative. Old fashioned ham hock and pea soup is my family soup memory, that pungent aroma summons up the past!

    Liked by 1 person

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