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Maltagliati pasta is a pasta which is made from scraps and offcuttings left over after other pastas have been made. The random shapes of maltagliati pasta have become so popular in some parts of Italy that some companies actually deliberately manufacture this pasta, rolling out large sheets of dough and cutting them into rough trapezoids. This pasta is most commonly found in areas where fresh pasta is available, although it is also sometimes sold dried. In a pinch, you can break up lasagna noodles to make maltagliati.
The name of this pasta literally means “badly cut,” a reference to the crazy and irregular shapes that can be found in a package of maltagliati. The pasta appears to have originated in the district of Emilia in Northern Italy, although undoubtedly Italians have been utilizing their pasta scraps for hundreds of years, since there is not reason to throw out perfectly good pasta dough.
The rough pasta shape is suitable for soups like minestrone, and it is a classic accompaniment to pasta e fagioli, or “pasta and beans,” a popular Italian dish which has spread to other regions of the world. Maltagliati pasta are less suitable for things like baked pasta dishes, since their irregular shapes can cook unevenly. They can be also plated with some sauces, depending on how edgy you like to be when serving pasta.
Just as with other pastas, this pasta can come in a range of flavors, depending on what has been added to the pasta dough. It is also made with a variety of different types of wheat. If you are purchasing maltagliati pasta dried, try to obtain pasta made with durum wheat, which is firmer. Durum wheat will hold up through prolonged cooking, allowing the pasta to stay resilient and chewy even after being cooked a little too long. For fresh pasta, the use of durum wheat is not as important, but the pasta will probably be of higher quality with durum wheat.
Some markets and Italian importers may carry dried maltagliati pasta, and if you happen to live near a pasta factory, you can probably pick up fresh pasta fairly cheaply that way. You can also make maltagliati pasta fresh at home with the assistance of a pasta machine. Mix up your favorite pasta dough, roll it out thinly, and cut it randomly with a knife to generate irregular shapes, preferably of around the same size so that they will have similar cooking times.