Maltgliati pasta, which literally means badly cut, is irregularly-shaped pasta of different-sized pieces and originated as the collected leftover pieces from other pastas traditionally made and cut by hand. The geometric irregularity of the shapes appeals visually to many people, leading some pasta manufacturers to purposely make maltgliati pasta with its characteristic trapezoidal shapes and different sizes. For some pasta dishes, it may be best to choose maltgliati pasta of roughly the same size for even cooking. Before purchasing, look carefully to make sure the pasta is a deep golden color without a lot of black specks or broken pieces, which may indicate lower quality.
Although the most authentic maltgliati pasta is made up of random shapes and sizes, this comes with a disadvantage. Different sizes of pasta cook at different speeds and can have an end product in which some pieces are mushy and overcooked and others hard and undercooked. Some pasta dishes may be less suited for maltgliati’s irregularities, like casseroles or pasta dishes served with sauce. In these cases, maltgliati pasta that is made up of same-sized shapes can used.
The best maltgliati pasta will have a golden color rather than pale or gray, which indicates good-quality wheat. Better pasta has fewer impurities and will not have dark specks or variations of color. Dried pasta should not break easily. A box containing broken pieces indicates brittle, poor-quality pasta.
Cooked maltgliati pasta should not leave excess starch in the water or cook down to mush. The best way to cook pasta is al dente, with a soft outside and a firm core. Once drained, the pasta should not need olive oil added to keep it from sticking. This indicates pasta that contains too much starch.
Pasta should be chosen with careful consideration as to its companion sauce. Large, chunkier maltgliati pairs well with thicker, chunkier sauces because it supports heavy sauce well. Smaller maltgliati should be used with thinner sauces and broths.
As maltgliati pasta is randomly sized leftovers of the pasta-making process, it’s possible to make maltgliati by breaking up other pasta, like manicotti noodles or large shells, or by cutting fresh pasta into random shapes. This can also be a good way to use up extra broken pieces that sometimes break off in the box. Manufactured maltgliati noodles are usually flat and shaped as a triangle, parallelogram, or trapezoid, although some manufacturers make a flat pasta they call maltgliati that has a scalloped edge. Many of these commercial maltgliati are quite fancy and bear little resemblance to the original, less-consistent shapes.