Nobel physicist explains how to boil pasta and now everyone is angry

(ORDO NEWS) — Italians are known, and understandably, to be protective of their cuisine, as evidenced by the regular debate over the right pizza toppings or the right pasta for bolognese stew.

So it’s no surprise that when a Nobel Prize-winning Italian physicist gave advice on how to cook pasta perfectly, which seemed to turn everything that the country’s chefs had done in the kitchen for centuries on its head, it caused an almighty scandal.

Professor Giorgio Parisi, who received the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics for “the discovery of the interaction of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from the atomic to the planetary scale,” suggested turning off the fire in the middle of pasta cooking, then cover with a lid and wait for the residual heat in the water to complete the work. can help reduce the cost of cooking pasta.

In response, Michelin-starred chef Antonello Colonna stated that this method makes the pasta elastic and that it could never be served in a high-quality restaurant such as his own.

The controversy quickly spilled over to the media, with several culinary and science heavyweights taking part.

But for those of us trying to save our pennies at home when making pasta, is the Parisi method really cost effective? And does it really taste that bad?

Inspired by the thought of saving some money, students Mia and Ross from Nottingham Trent University went into the kitchen to cook pasta in a variety of ways, helping to untangle tangles. this question.

What happens when you cook pasta?

The first thing to ask is what actually happens when we cook pasta. In the case of dried pasta, there are actually two processes that usually happen in parallel.

First, the water permeates the pasta, rehydrating and softening it for ten minutes in boiling water. Second, the pasta is heated, causing the proteins to expand and become edible.

In the standard cooking method, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of pasta is immersed in 1 liter (about a liter) of boiling water for 10–12 hours, minutes, depending on its thickness.

The breakdown of energy consumption is shown in the graph below, which can be converted to a total cost using information on the energy price and furnace efficiency.

Based on today’s prices, the cost of cooking dried pasta on a ceramic stove is 12.7 pence (about $0.15). per serving, induction cooker 10.6p and gas cooker 7p. So, given the British love of pasta, where on average everyone eats one serving a week, we spend £4,690,000 (about $8.35 million) making pasta a week.

The graph shows that about 60 percent of the energy is used to keep the water boiling. So anything that can be done to reduce cooking time will have a significant impact on the overall cost.

Parisi’s method of turning off the stove halfway and letting the pasta cook with the residual heat will cut cooking time in half. cost, saving about 3p. This method will be even more effective on ceramic hobs, as unlike gas and induction hobs, they cool slowly.

However, by separating the rehydration and heating processes, the cost can be further reduced. . Dried pasta can be completely rehydrated by soaking it in cold water for two hours. This is a process that requires no energy at all and saves an additional 3p.

The pasta then needs to be thrown into boiling water to heat it up – and here, too, additional savings can be made. Chefs, bloggers and scientists report that significantly reducing the amount of water does not affect the quality of cooked pasta.

We found that cutting the amount of water in half resulted in a perfect paste, but cutting the amount of water down to one-third was unsatisfactory.

The starch is released during cooking, and if there is not enough water, the concentration builds up, leaving clumps of unevenly cooked pasta, although stirring the pot regularly can improve the situation.

The graph shows that the second highest energy is required from bringing water to a boil. Again, there is another savings here.

It turns out that the protein granules in pasta dissolve at temperatures above 80ºC (176ºF), so there is no need to bring the pot to a “boiling boil”. at 100ºC as often advised. A gentle simmer is enough for the pasta to cook through, providing an additional savings of around 0.5p.

We also investigated the use of a microwave oven to reheat pre-soaked pasta. Microwaves heat water very efficiently, but in our experiments they produced the worst pasta ever. Definitely not one to try at home.

How to do it – and save money

The prize for the most efficient way to cook dried pasta is to pre-soak in cold water before adding it to a pot of boiling water or sauce for one to two minutes.

Putting a lid on the pot is another simple thing you can do. The addition of salt minimally affects the boiling point, but greatly improves the taste.

We’re not all Michelin-starred chefs or Nobel Prize winners in physics, but we can all change tastes. the way we cook to cut down on energy costs and still cook delicious food.

Now you can experiment with these methods until you find a combination that makes cooking more economical and also saves you pennes .


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