Food Odes: Maialino’s Malfatti Pasta

NY Mag writer Tory Hoen says this pasta is one of the sexiest she's ever encountered.

Photo:  foodie-call.com

Photo: foodie-call.com

There will always be that one glorious dish that is near and dear to your heart, a food that is synonymous with satisfaction and perfection. We asked our friends in the food and editorial world to write #FoodOdes to the dishes that they love. Here, an ode to Maialino’s malfatti pasta, from NY Mag contributor Tory Hoen (@ToryHoen).

Back when I was a complete fool, I often avoided ordering pasta at restaurants. My reasoning: “It’s not worth it. I can pretty much make that myself.” I’ll chalk this absurd line of thinking up to that rare mix of naïveté and hubris that only the very young and stupid possess. These days, I know better.

Case in point: The malfatti at Danny Meyer’s Roman trattoria, Maialino. It’s hard for me to talk about this pasta. First of all, the drool is already pooling in my mouth. Second, as is the case with all transcendent dishes, mere words will never really do it justice. Not even experiencing it does it justice. Nothing does it justice. There is no justice. It’s unsettlingly good. Anarchy ensues.

The name alone, which means “badly made” in Italian, suggests that malfatti might be a crude dish lacking in glamour. Not so. In fact, it’s one of the sexiest pastas I’ve ever encountered: Thin hand-torn egg noodles tangled elegantly with bite-sized pieces of criminally tender roast pork, all of it slicked with buttery veal sauce and topped with a nest of citrus-splashed arugula (you know, to lighten things up).

It’s one of the sexiest pastas I’ve ever encountered: Thin hand-torn egg noodles tangled elegantly with bite-sized pieces of criminally tender roast pork, all of it slicked with buttery veal sauce and topped with a nest of citrus-splashed arugula.

Its advent was a happy accident for chef Nick Anderer, who on a whim combined two cast-off ingredients (misshapen pasta scraps and the too-tough leg meat left over from Maialino’s signature roast suckling pig). Anderer braised the meat in chicken stock to soften it, added butter and rich veal stock, tossed it with the haphazardly shaped pasta, and a veritable star was born.

The experience of eating the malfatti is rife with conflict: It’s the kind of dish you could easily inhale in under a minute, but it’s also the kind that you hope will last forever. The result is that your mouth has something of a fight with itself. You’re simultaneously chewing, drooling, savoring, swallowing, grunting; it’s normal to feel confused. One minute, you’re lapping up buttery pig juices, and the next, you’re being refreshed by a burst of lemony arugula. Embrace it all. Do not ask questions. Do not resist.

By the time the check comes, you’ll be in such a state of blissful docility that you won’t even care that you’re dropping $23 for a small-ish plate of starch, salt, and fat. In fact, you’ll want to pay them double and offer up your firstborn. You’ll also—thanks to Maialino’s cozy farmhouse feel—want to curl up under your table and sleep for a hundred years. Or you could try taking a turn around nearby Gramercy Park and then coming back for an immediate round two, which would be a reasonable way to handle things. I tend to avoid the profane, especially in print, but when it comes to malfatti, I’m just going to say it: It’s fucked up how good this is.

Maialino, 2 Lexington Ave (212-777-2410, maialinonyc.com)

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