Malfatti translated into English means “poorly made.” An Italian slang term for a mistake. But a possible negative becomes a powerful postive in Italy where malfatti is symbolic of an ideal simplicity found in straightforward dishes made from the highest quality ingredients. Similar to the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi where imperfection can be turned into a thing of beauty and doing more with less is an art form. Bringing good food to the table doesn't have to be a chore and recipes don't have to be complicated to be good. Italians typically focus on the quality of ingredients rather than the number of ingredients. Italian cooking is founded on generational recipes that are handed down through the oral traditions of the great kitchens of Italy, with simple straighforward ingredients impeccably crafted as a well-designed Brioni suit.
I was introduced to Italian wabi-sabi cooking by my friend Rita from Castello Gropparello near Piacenza. Piacenza is located in Emilia Romagna, a region of Italy that is at the epi-center of Italian food culture. Know for Parma ham, Modena balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Bolognese ragu', Emilia Romagna is legendary and the classical dishes of the region are the most imitated and among the most recognized at the Italian table . I was intent on making the perfect pasta dough and worried about my technique for shaping tortellini when Rita said "no worries, today we are making maltagliata". Maltagliata is a pasta made from scraps and offcuttings left over after other pastas have been made. This "poorly made" pasta has become so popular in certain parts of Italy that some companies actually deliberately manufacture it, rolling out large sheets of dough and cutting them into rough irregular shapes. An ideal simplicity ready to be combined with a perfect sauce to create an Italian malfatti.