In the wake of mad cow disease, pajata, the intestines of milk-fed veal, was banned in 2001. For years, Roman cooks substituted lamb intestines for this beloved ingredient—or served veal pajata illegally—but in 2015, the ban was lifted and now suckling veal intestines are back on menus across the Italian capital. To prepare pajata, Romans harvest intestines from freshly slaughtered calves, tie them off into rings to prevent the partially digested mother’s milk from escaping, simmer in tomato sauce, then serve with rigatoni and Pecorino Romano. The enzymes inside the intestines, as well as the long cooking process, turn the mother’s milk into a kind of ricotta-like filling. On rare occasions, you will find the intestines of the smallest sucking veal simply grilled and seasoned with salt and pepper. Here’s where to get your pajata fix in Rome.
Head to Sartor, a butcher shop in the Testaccio Market. The Sartor family will tie the pajata into tidy rings for you. Grab some onion, tomato sauce, white wine, and rigatoni at a nearby stall and cook the pajata yourself, simmering for about an hour. And don’t forget to liberally dust your dish with grated Pecorino Romano before serving.
Also in the Testaccio Market, the Mordi e Vai stall serves pajata sandwiches. Owner Sergio Esposito worked in the slaughterhouse’s organs department for years and is an offal expert. He piles rings of saucy pajata on sliced ciabattine, heaps with grated Pecorino, and serves. There is no glamorous way to eat this standing near the stall, so come prepared with a stain stick and some wet wipes.
Across the river at Tavernaccia da Bruno, Giuseppe Ruzzettu serves rigatoni con la pajata, preferring the youngest veal intestines, which are thinner than the rigatoni tubes. His version is on the lighter side by Roman standards and in spite of simmering the pajata in tomato sauce for a long time, the tomato remains bright and acidic, a perfect foil to the rich and creamy pajata filling.
At the institution Armando al Pantheon, chef Claudio Gargioli serves pajata alla piastra (seared pajata) made with the pencil-thin intestines of very young veal. He grills the intestines, creating savory seared bits on the outside while leaving the inside tender.
In San Lorenzo near Rome’s Sapienza University, Pommidoro wraps super-thin pajata around luscious chunks of savory fat, forming a sort of meatloaf-sided web of intestines. This spiedone di pajata is cooked over the grill in the center of the dining room, then portions are sliced to order from the cylindrical spiedone. Each has an unctuous center surrounded by crispy bits of tangled intestines, an unforgettable flavor that has returned to the Roman table after a 14-year hiatus.