Have you signed up for MR Thoughtline yet? It’s Man Repeller’s new text-based service that lights up phone screens with good bits from around the internet, opportunities to chat with cool people, and digital recesses to help your mind take a break from the news in favor of a recipe, physical activity or, trust us, very useful WFH outfit ideas. Subscribe here.
There’s a new issue of GQ in town today, and it’s weird as hell. The cover story features actor Robert Pattinson who agrees that “chaos agent” is an accurate summarization of the way he moves through the world. This rings true: Somehow, he managed to give an interview that resulted in a third of the story—1,414 of its 3,886 words—to be devoted to the cover boy’s bewildering relationship with pasta.
In the piece, Pattinson speaks of an aspiration to give pasta “the fast food credentials” that burgers and pizzas have, with the help of ingredients like sugar, pre-sliced cheese and cornflakes. From here, the whole convoluted pasta narrative takes on a life of its own. Reader, there is even a microwave explosion.
So, this morning Mallory asked me if I’d like to try making it myself. I said yes, by which I meant no, and headed for the kitchen. I chose to try Bobby P’s recipe for what he calls Piccolini Cuscino (Italian for “little pillow”) on an amuse-bouche scale, in case the recipe didn’t turn out like it was supposed to, leaving me with nothing but depleted resources to show for it.
Of all the reactive writing published in the quarantine age, I believe this profile of Pattinson will persist in the cultural memory and become singularly representative of the moment. The author describes Pattinson, and the rest of us, as “pinwheeling through space and anxiety and history.” Can you think of a better frame of mind for innovating a new approach to pasta? Anyway, here I go.
Selecting a Pasta Shape
Robert’s instructions: “There was one type of pasta that worked. It definitely wasn’t penne.” Then he adds penne.
Given the available options in my household (Banza elbows, fusilli, and pappardelle), I consider which would be best suited to be a “pasta which you can hold in your hand?” Something about the shape of the pappardelle distinguishes it against its contenders. Plus the bag’s already open. According to the time stamps, it is at this point in my process that The Cut had deemed Pattinson’s pasta “unholy.” I think about the credit under one of Pattinson’s thigh-baring GQ self-portraits that says, “Underwear, his own.”
Cooking The Pasta
Robert’s instructions: “All right,” Pattinson says. “So obviously, first things first, you gotta microwave the pasta.”
My parents don’t have a microwave—which honestly feels integral to this whole operation. Nearly defeated already, I cook it in hot water over the stove top, subbing in the cereal bowl for an eensy pot. If my interpretation of Pattinson’s recipe sounds familiar, it’s because it smacks of every comment you’ve ever read under the New York Times’ Cooking section.
Eight minutes in the microwave sounds like a long time, but Pattinson insists! In case you, like I, were wondering, here are some other things you can allegedly microwave for eight minutes: corn on the cob, hard or soft-boiled eggs, bacon, cornbread, fudgy brownies. I am not wearing latex gloves, although Pattinson did. I’m not entirely sure what those were for—a rubbery note in the flavor profile after he’s massaged the pillow?
The Part with The Sugar and The Aluminum Foil
Robert’s instructions: “He pulls out some sugar and some aluminum foil and makes a bed, a kind of hollowed-out sphere, with the foil…In the meantime, he takes the foil and he begins dumping sugar on top of it.”
Kind of hard to visualize this but I believe I’ve done what I’ve been told.
Add Cheese and Breadcrumbs
Robert’s instructions: “I found after a lot of experimentation that you really need to congeal everything in an enormous amount of sugar and cheese.” So after the sugar, he opens his first package of cheese and begins layering slice after slice onto the sugar-foil. Then more sugar: “It really needs a sugar crust.” Then he realizes that he’s forgotten the outer layer, which is supposed to be breadcrumbs but today will be crushed-up cornflakes, and so he lifts the pile of cheese and sugar and crumbles some cornflakes onto the aluminum foil before placing the sugar-cheese back on top of it.”
I investigate the refrigerator and find no evidence of pre-sliced cheese. I am not going outside for a Kraft Single. I also have no cornflakes. At this point, I wonder if there’s one hero product that can add the texture of the cornflakes and the tangy flavor of cheese. I open a drawer, and bingo: We still have cheddar Goldfish. I crush about five into the tinfoil “pillow.”
Sauce Man Sauce Man Sauce Man
Robert’s instructions: “Then he adds sauce, which is red.”
I’m not sure where the tomato sauce is and I don’t want to tell my parents what I’m doing, so I use ketchup instead. Robert said, “Just any sauce.”
I include the avocado for scale.
At this point, I strain the pasta and add the “pillow” to the mixture—now I’m off script, because at this stage in his process, Robert Pattinson’s microwave went the way of Britney Spears’s home gym. When I add the sauce to the pasta, I confront a disturbing sensation: It actually smells kind of good. It makes me wonder if Pattinson arrived at this recipe by researching what failed experiments led to the invention of Spaghetti-Os, or by reverse-engineering how Spaghetti-O’s are made. This step was not photogenic enough to include in the story without a black censorship tab.
Restaurant-Caliber Plating—Bon Apple Tea!
Here’s the thing: we don’t really know what it was supposed to look like. (As you may recall, Pattinson blew his microwave up in the midst of the interview.) At some point, I believe a flambéed hamburger bun was supposed to come into play. I don’t have a hamburger bun and furthermore refuse to eat a carb served atop another carb, but I gather that that’s what Pattinson intended. Ultimately, he flambéed his entire dish, so I skip that step.
I make sure to plate the final dish in a sexy way, tenderly draping one strip of pappardelle atop the other. I take a bite and there’s a sandy crunch that makes me momentarily worry that I’ve broken a tooth, only to realize that was just a textural cornerstone of the dish, the Goldfish gravel.
As I wash my plate, I conclude that this dish would be well-suited for the menu of a Catskills resort, where an elderly woman once said to her friend: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible,” and her friend agreed: “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”
I wonder where Robert Pattinson will next take his talents after Batman’s production resumes and wraps: as the lead man in a biopic of Jacques Pepin or Anthony Bourdain? In a live-action remake of Ratatouille? As an entrepreneur pitching Piccolini Cuscino on ABC’s Shark Tank? Each of these ideas feel just as plausible as the last.