News from the pasta world continues to delight and intrigue, this time with a bit less drama.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have created a “dynamic noodle” that actually changes shape, from flat to three-dimensional, as it cooks.
Each new pasta design starts out flat and unassuming, but bounces and swells into three dimensions when boiled. In a paper published Wednesday in Science Advances, the researchers say the flat-to-plump pasta is not only fun to make, but uses less packaging, has a smaller carbon footprint and cooks faster than traditional dried pasta.
Rather than extrude the pasta through a die, it’s first flattened out and then stamped with strategic patterns that cause the shape to transform as it cooks. There’s some theorizing about how the more efficient pasta could be used in emergency situations or in the space station, but really it’s just cool to make flat things not flat.
The nerds at Carnegie Mellon aren’t the only ones having fun with semolina. Dan Pashman, host of the Sporkful podcast spent three years developing a new pasta shape that could be speared with a fork and also effectively hold on to sauce. The result is cascatelli (inspired by the Italian word for waterfall), which America’s Test Kitchen writer Kate Bernot says helped her reconsider her relationship with pasta more generally:
Cascatelli’s true culinary contribution is that it has spurred home cooks — myself included — to think differently, and more deeply, about pasta.
Despite pasta’s ubiquity, most of us don’t think critically about which shapes we like best and why.
“When we talk on The Sporkful about a food in great detail, one of my favorite reactions that I’ll get is people will say, ‘I never knew I had such strong opinions about that,’” Pashman says. “When cascatelli came out, it caused people to interrogate their own opinions and experiences with pasta shapes and to start to realize like, ‘Oh my God, yes, spaghetti does suck.’”
Pashman’s opposition to spaghetti comes from its slipperiness, the difficulty of saucing it well and getting it onto your fork — he thinks most people would agree spaghetti is a suboptimal shape, if only we thought about it.
I’m pretty sure I spied a bite of cascatelli in the first episode Waffles and Mochi, but don’t start planning a cascatelli party just yet: shipping times for the new shape are currently twelve weeks.