So, we look for solutions, even if they may seem bizarre. A case involving the Italian Nobel laureate for physics, Giorgio Parisi, has exploded on Italian social media in recent days.
Giorgio Parisi and Antonello Colonna on passive pasta
The scientist claims that it is possible to cook pasta by boiling the water and turning off the gas halfway through cooking. By covering the pot and leaving the pasta immersed for one minute longer than the cooking time indicated on the package, the result (Parisi argues) is the same, and you can save up to 44-kilowatt hours in a year - considering the national consumption of pasta in Italy, which is around 23kg per person.
The physicist claims it is very important to keep the lid on the pot, which has the function of never lowering the water temperature below 80 ° C (which causes gluten to coagulate). Parisi suggests putting on the lid and turning the heat to the minimum or even extinguishing it for his 'saving technique'.
The response was swift, and it came from starred chef Antonello Colonna. The Roman cook rejected Parisi's solution, claiming that with this procedure the pasta becomes "rubbery", and impossible to serve in a high-level restaurant. Colonna considers the method a failure and proposes cooking on an open-fire grill, with pots that have fed entire generations like a cauldron. The chef claims this traditional low-temperature technique lowers electricity costs in his restaurant.
Science and gastronomy come to blows in a polemic that is a long way from resolved: it is true that cooking without gas saves money, and it is true that spaghetti cooked without gas can be rubbery and lose the texture Italians love. But compromise may be necessary in order to navigate the current energy situation.
What is passive pasta?
The passive cooking method for pasta is not new - Elio Sironi spoke about it ten years ago when he was executive chef of the Bulgari Hotel restaurant in Milan. What is passive cooking of pasta? Sironi recommended immersing the pasta in boiling water and cooking it for just two minutes, then turning off the heat and covering it for the rest of the required cooking time. This creates the same callosity on the palate, with a greater amount of starch. Not so very different from Giorgio Parisi’s method (who is one of the greatest scientists in the world). However, this Nobel laureate is also a Roman. And for a Roman, pasta is considered beyond the realms of science… it is a spiritual affair.
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