Stanley Tucci is known for many things. He’s a celebrated actor, screenwriter, director, and bestselling author. He’s also unreasonably charming (it's been dubbed the Tucci effect) and possesses one of the most iconic voices in Hollywood. But at least among food lovers, Tucci may be most renowned for his enduring love of Italian cuisine.

And yes, we all love Italian food. But Tucci’s passion for la cucina Italiana goes beyond your basic penchant for pasta and pizza. He’s Italian on both sides, speaks Italian fluently, and has traveled extensively in Italy, savoring the diverse local specialties of its 20 regions. He even spent a year living in Florence as a child. So it’s fair to say Tucci knows what he’s talking about when it comes to Italian gastronomic culture.

Spoon chatted with Tucci about his love for all things pasta, how he brings an Italian flavor to festive gatherings and his work as the pasta hero we didn’t know we needed, bringing the beloved pasta shape pastina back to the U.S. in partnership with San Pellegrino just in time for the holidays.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Spoon University: Why does pasta always have a place on your holiday table?

Stanley Tucci: Pasta has a place at practically every table, right? I love it. I grew up with it. It is a staple of the Italian kitchen, particularly from Tuscany down.

Pasta is great. It's so versatile, and it can give you the nutrients that you need. You can just make plain pasta, or you can make egg pasta. And then you can pair it with anything. Meat, fish…pasta with just four different cheeses, pasta with just one cheese. Pick a vegetable, make it with a pasta. Pasta with onions, pasta with anchovies, pasta with sardines. Pasta with breadcrumbs is an incredibly poor dish that was made. People didn't even have cheese and they would use the breadcrumbs as some sort of topping. You can just go on forever.

SU: I’m already hungry. Do you have any pasta cooking advice?

ST: A lot of people have a tendency to overcook pasta, so don't do that. On the package it will say cook for this amount of time, right? Eight minutes, 11 minutes, six minutes. But you have to taste it. You want it to be al dente, you want it to have just a little bit of a bite to it, but also remember when you take pasta out, it's going to continue to cook. So take it out just a little before you think you should take it out. And then by the time you get it all ready it'll be cooked the way you want it.

Never rinse your pasta, ever. You're taking away all the flavor, all the beautiful starches.

If you're going to mix it with the sauce, take a little bit of pasta water and toss that with your sauce and it gives it a nice viscosity.

SU: Any tips for easy ways to bring Italian taste to festive gatherings?

ST: Serving pasta or risotto is a good choice because you can do so much with them. All you need is a few fresh ingredients to make a really great dish. That's kind of the beauty of Italian cooking. The majority of it is incredibly simple and is limited to between 5 and 10 ingredients that are pretty easily accessible in many parts of the world. The key thing is just the quality of them. You can find high quality ingredients at farmers markets and good grocery stores, and a lot of times the smaller markets will have nicer produce.

Also, Italians will have three different courses, but the portions are appropriately-sized. So you have a little plate of pasta, a little bit of meat and then you have a salad and it all works together.

SU: What inspired your love for pastina?

ST: Pastina reminds me of when I was a kid. No Italian household is ever without pastina in its pantry. And when you were ill, that's what your mother gave you. You had pastina with a little bit of butter and cheese. And in the winter months, you had chicken soup like Brodo di Gallina, and it was just incredibly comforting.

SU: Can you tell me a little more about the Brodo di Gallina?

ST: Brodo di Gallina is a classic Italian recipe for chicken soup with vegetables. You can put pieces of chicken in it, you can make the chicken meatballs, you can leave both of those out if you want and just have the broth. And with the carrots and onions, you're getting so many nutrients in this really simple dish. You can cook it in a pot, pressure cooker, stock pot, whatever. It's so simple and delicious.

SU: Sounds amazing. Soup is so comforting in the winter.

ST: Yes, I love any kind of soup or stew in the winter as the weather starts to change. I remember having the most amazing lamb stew in Iceland. One of the most incredible things I've ever had in my life.

SU: How have you worked with San Pellegrino to bring pastina back to the U.S.?

ST: I heard that certain brands were discontinuing pastina and I was like, what are you talking about? That's an outrage. So we teamed up with Rummo, a wonderful Pasta maker in Italy, to make some pastina for us, because the star of the San Pellegrino bottle is not unlike the shape of the star pasta, stelline (Editor’s Note: Stanley Tucci is also a star, but apparently a humble one). We wanted to do something for the holiday season. So we came up with these two recipes for Brodo di Gallina and Pastina Classica.

SU: Okay, so we know you love pastina. Do you have a least favorite pasta shape?

ST: I like almost all pasta shapes. I'm not a huge fan of casarecce, which are these twisty things that are a little too thick sometimes. But that's about it. Everything else? Great.

How you can get S. Pellegrino Stelline pasta

Fans can get S. Pellegrino Stelline pasta for a limited time only as part of S.Pellegrino & Stanley Tucci’s Stelline Two Ways holiday recipe kit featuring two of Stanley Tucci’s original recipes: Brodo di Gallina con Polpettine di Pollo, and Pastina Classica.  The kit will be available for purchase from World Chef/YumCrunch starting November 1 with additional weekly drops on November 8, November 15, and November 27.