“I eat out of cans and stuff. I’ll literally put Tabasco inside a tuna can and just eat it out of the can.” —Robert Pattinson, actor
The last few months of solitude have presented me—a bored, quarantined adult—with an opportunity to improve my cooking. Usually, that means trying new recipes and experimenting with a few of my own. It does not usually mean reading about the culinary fever dreams of a stir-crazy celebrity holed up in his apartment in London and trying to recreate them in my own kitchen. But when Robert Pattinson revealed in his GQ cover story this week that he’s invented a “fast food pasta recipe” he dubs Piccolini Cuscino, I knew I had no choice but to try it.
Piccolini Cuscino means “little pillow” in Italian, and it’s Pattinson’s attempt to give pasta “the same kind of fast-food credentials as burgers and pizzas.” He really does seem to have ambitions for this pasta concept to take off, claiming to have shopped the idea around to professionals in the restaurant industry. For now, though, he’s stuck across the pond where he’s supposed to be filming the new Batman movie, and he’s trying his best to combat mounting ennui—or so it would seem from this recipe, whose ingredients are thus:
- Hamburger buns
- Breadcrumbs—or, failing that, cornflakes (“I went to the shop, and they didn’t sell breadcrumbs. I’m like, ‘Oh, fuck it! I’m just getting cornflakes. That’s basically the same shit,’” explains Pattinson)
- A lighter (for flambé purposes)
- Pre-sliced cheese
- Sauce (“Just any sauce,” Pattinson clarifies)
I didn’t have all these ingredients, but in the spirit of any good quarantine recipe, I snuck in a few substitutions. Armed with cheddar cheese, a handful of penne, breadcrumbs (which I had!), a jar of sauce, a hamburger bun, and sugar, I got to work.
Pattinson’s first step involves microwaving pasta—and it is perhaps this detail that leads interviewer Zach Baron to suspect this pasta recipe might be a bit of performance art more than anything else. I am a connoisseur of depression meals, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually cooked pasta in the microwave before. Fortunately, after consulting the internet, a man on YouTube told me what I should have known all along: Pattinson was right. After 8 minutes in the microwave, the noodles were a satisfying mix of al dente and mushy. Trusting Pattinson as the expert on his little pasta pillows, I decided to stick closely to his recipe from here on out.
I used the last aluminum foil in my house to craft what Baron describes as “a kind of hollowed-out sphere” for the dish. Resources are tight in quarantine, but using all my remaining foil felt integral to Piccolini Cuscino.
Pattinson substituted cornflakes for the breadcrumbs he couldn’t find at the store, but I substituted his substitution with actual breadcrumbs and layered panko onto the foil. I quickly realized there was no chance of the breadcrumbs sticking to the sides to create the outer crust for the pasta that Pattinson describes. I dumped the crumbs out, buttered the sides of the foil, and sprinkled them back in.
After the panko came a layer of sugar, then lots of cheddar cheese, and then more sugar. I had literally no clue how I was going to eat this thing—and this is where I realized I would trust Robert Pattinson with my life. Onto the sugar-cheese-crumb base I poured some sauce. The recipe calls for “any sauce.” I used red sauce. Seemed right.
Baron notes that Pattinson burned himself taking the pasta out of the microwave; I learned from his mistakes by giving mine some time to cool. In hindsight, though, applying scalding pasta to the foil probably would have done more to melt the cheese layer to a pleasing consistency. It’s clear that Pattinson’s tested multiple prototypes of the Piccolini Cuscino. Nonetheless, in went the pasta, and then I pivoted to hollowing out a hamburger bun I rescued from the bottom of my freezer. Baron explains the next step:
[Pattinson] begins burning the top of the bun with the giant novelty lighter. “I’m just gonna do the initials.…”
“You look like you’re cooking meth,” I say, because he does.
“I’m really trying to sell this company. I’m doing this for my brand.”
[...]Then he gingerly holds up the finished product: some approximation of a P, followed by a C, for Piccolini Cuscino, burned into the top of a hamburger bun.
I grabbed a lighter to carve the initials “P.C.” into my own bun. This terrified me. My entire kitchen smelled like burning pretty much as soon as the flame hit gluten. If the burning bush showed Moses there is a God, I was hopeful for what this burning bun could reveal. It seemed to be taking a long time for the lighter to leave any mark on the bread, and even though I was being extremely cautious, it felt like the whole thing was about to ignite. I put the lighter down and decided that, since this isn’t an official Piccolini Cuscino, I didn’t actually have to mark it as such. I don’t want to be sued for copyright infringement anyway.
Pattinson opted to microwave his aluminum foil boat, which turned out as well as you might expect. I only have one microwave to last me all of quarantine, so I went with the oven instead. (I didn’t want to explode the appliance I now know can cook any noodle.) The foil-wrapped pocket went in at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, per Pattinson’s instructions, and I did not check on it. Its fate was no longer in my hands.
Ten minutes ended up being just long enough to melt the cheese so that it absorbed the breadcrumbs and (still solid) sugar granules into its amorphous form. With limited instruction on the actual dynamics of consumption, I flipped the whole thing over to relieve it from the tin foil and ate it bun-on-the-bottom.
The verdict? Robert Pattinson is definitely onto... something, but that something, the way I’ve cooked it, is painfully sweet and almost sandy in texture. Still, I could indeed eat the first few bites with one hand before deciding I didn’t want to eat it anymore, so ultimately the meal was as Pattinson promised: fast and portable, like a burger or a slice of pizza.
If you’re interested in making Robert Pattinson’s Piccolini Cuscino in quarantine, my advice is probably don’t do it. It’s clear this dish, like other fast food staples before it, is too complex for the home cook for too little payoff—or maybe the best version of it still lives inside Robert Pattinson’s own mind. I look forward to trying it again one day, but a version of it made by professionals, sometime far from now when I can visit Los Angeles and find Pattinson’s portable pasta business positively booming. It’s on my list of foods I can’t wait to eat when there are restaurants again. Right at the top.