What’s the Difference Between Pastina and Acini de Pepe

Two pasta varieties that often cause confusion are pastina and acini de pepe. They may seem similar at first glance, yet subtle differences set them apart. 

In this blog post, you’ll know their distinctions. 

So, get ready to satisfy your curiosity!

Key Takeaways

Pastina is a general term for tiny pasta shapes, whereas acini de pepe is a specific type of pastina that resembles small beads or pearls. Acini de pepe is considered the largest pastina among all other types with its 2mm size.

What is Pastina?

Pastina means “tiny pasta” in Italian. It’s a beloved culinary gem that holds a special place in many Italian households. 

These small pastas are usually made from durum wheat semolina or a combination of semolina and egg. Pastina varies in shape and sizes. You can find pastina in 6 basic types with sizes between around 1.5 to 2 millimeters.

There are over 30 different types of pastina, but some of the most common include:

  • Stelline (stars)
  • Anelli (rings)
  • Confetti (irregular shapes)
  • Alphabet pasta
  • Orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • Risoni (larger version of orzo)
  • Cavatelli (small shells)
  • Ditali (small tubes)
  • Fusilli (spirals)

These pasta shapes are typically very small, making them ideal for soups and broths. You can use them in salads, desserts, and even risotto-style dishes.


The term “pastina” can be used differently in different parts of the world. In North America, the term “pastina” is often used to refer specifically to stelline. In Italy, however, pastina is a more general term that refers to any small pasta shape.

Pastina’s small size and delicate texture make it ideal for soups, broths, and stews. It has a remarkable ability to absorb flavors, adding a comforting touch to any dish.

What is Acini de Pepe?

Acini de pepe means “peppercorns” in Italian and Latin. Among 30 types of pastina, it’s among the largest one with its 2mm size. So, acini de pepe is pastian, yet not every pastina is acini de pepe.  

Unlike other types of pastina, acini de pepe is shaped like tiny beads or pearls. These small pasta pearls are made from durum wheat semolina, just like many other pasta shapes.

Acini de Pepe is often used in Italian desserts, particularly in the classic dish known as “Italian wedding soup.” In this soup, the pearls of acini de pepe bring a delightful texture and add a touch of elegance. The pasta pearls cook quickly and remain al dente, offering a slight chewiness that complements the soup’s broth and ingredients perfectly.

Concluding the Key Differences

  • Pastina is most commonly available as tiny pasta in round or star-shaped. Yet, acini de pepe, as a type of pastina, resembles small beads or pearls.
  • Pastina is more commonly employed due to its versatile nature. Acini de pepe, as a specialized type of pastina, is often reserved for specific recipes like Italian wedding soup or certain desserts.
  • Pastina tends to be softer and more delicate, owing to its smaller size than acini de pepe. Acini de pepe, with its slightly larger size, offers a chewier bite that can hold its own against heartier ingredients.

Hence, when it comes to the pasta universe, even the tiniest variations can make a difference. Acini de pepe is the largest pearl-like type of Pastina, but pastina is found in several other shapes and smaller sizes than acini de pepe. I hope that understanding these differences will help you choose the perfect pasta for your next delicious creation!

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Cashmere Muhammad
Cashmere Muhammad

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