If you have an Italian background and grew up in a household where Italian food traditions were maintained, I’m willing to bet pastina was a big part of your formative years.
For me, pastina refers to the soup dish that we were all fed as children: chicken broth with tiny pasta in it. Most often, the pasta shape we used is what we would call acini di pepe. But we just referred to the dish as pastina.
It was a code word for comfort.
It didn’t matter what part of Italy your family came from, every kid knew what pastina was.
We had it once a week, at least, and your mother’s pastina was always better than anybody else’s mom’s pastina.
I miss those days.
Chicken broth, or brodo di pollo, is near and dear to my heart. In fact during the fall and winter months, if I don’t have it at least once a week I feel like I’m missing something.
Now that I’m a grown up (when did that happen?!), we experiment with other pasta shapes like stelline or tubetti. But truth be told, what I really love to see floating in my chicken broth are quadrucci.
Quadrucci are squares of fresh pasta. Once you make a batch of fresh pasta, you roll it out and then run it through the pasta cutter to form fettuccine. Once formed, you gather the strands of pasta and cut them into tiny squares.
The squares of fresh pasta are spread out on a tablecloth or on a large pan covered with a cloth and allowed to dry. You can then use the squares right away or you can freeze them and use them in soup as you need them.
Last summer, when I was in Italy, my aunt made ravioli and then used the leftover pasta to make quadrucci. I asked her if she minded if I would take pictures and she was thrilled.
For 2011, I set some goals for myself and one of them was to make fresh pasta at least once a month. Last month, I made a batch of fresh pasta and used it to make quadrucci, which we enjoyed in a steaming bowl of chicken broth.
I can’t help but wax poetic. If it’s possible to love a dish, then this is one that I feel an actual physical love for.
It’s my one and only.
I have tried many fresh pasta recipes but I still stand by my mother’s. I first published it on my blog here.
To make the quadrucci, gather the pasta strands after you’ve run them through the pasta cutter or cut them on your own with a pastry cutter, and cut them into tiny squares with a sharp knife.
To use the quadrucci in soup, bring a pot of water to boil and salt it generously. Add the quadrucci and boil for a few minutes, until tender (al dente). Add the quadrucci to your soup. Enjoy!