I had started to worry something was up when I couldn’t find that familiar, squatty blue box at any of my local grocery stores. What’s more, at two supermarkets, its spot on the shelf was gone altogether, swallowed up by the latest chickpea-based penne and keto noodles (yes, that’s a thing). Maybe there isn’t enough demand for it, I thought. Maybe it’s another supply chain issue; we’ve certainly had our fair share of them the past three years.
Then, on January 3, I had my answer: “After extensive efforts, we regretfully announce that Ronzoni Pastina is being discontinued,” the company announced via Instagram. Comments came pouring in, and so did headlines everywhere, declaring that people were “panicking,” “devastated” and “losing their minds.”
My heart sank, and I wanted to complain to anyone who’d listen about how bummed I was. And yet, the articles induced a rash of embarrassment. With so much going on in the world, was I really about to whine over the loss of tiny, star-shaped pasta? I had to sit with it a minute; I needed to unravel why this mattered so much to me, and to so many other people.
Translating to “tiny dough,” pastina is just that—the smallest pasta shape that Ronzoni has ever made, stars barely larger than the tip of a Sharpie. It’s often served in soups, or—as I knew it—swirled with butter as a simple alternative to plain noodles. The size made it a great first food for babies and toddlers, and for many Italian families, it was a pantry staple. (Though I’m not Italian, it was a staple in my household too.)