‘Passive cooking’ to prepare pasta can help you save energy, says food brand

In a nation where cooking pasta is treated with religious reverence, any challenge to the traditional way of doing things is bound to be viewed as controversial – if not downright heretical.

So when one of Italy’s biggest pasta makers began telling its customers to ignore what generations of the country’s nonni (grandparents) had taught them, it was as if the Pope had told his flock to ignore one of the central tenets of Catholic dogma.

Italian children, and cooks, are told from an early age that the water in which the pasta is cooked must be kept at a rolling boil, in order to disperse the starch so the dish can be served al dente and not as a glutinous mess.

But Barilla has now told the pasta shoppers they can simply boil the water and turn off the pan after two minutes and put on the lid so that the pasta sits in the hot water until it is cooked.

The Parma-based firm, which makes 160 different types of pasta shapes, is promoting the idea to help its customers save on gas and electricity costs during the energy and climate crisis.

Passive cooking would ‘make a real impact’

In its marketing material it describes the technique, which it calls passive cooking, as “an alternative way of pasta cooking that reduces CO2 emissions by up to 80 per cent in comparison with the traditional method”.

It states: “Passive cooking is a technique that has been around since the mid-19th-century. Around 16 million tons of pasta are produced worldwide. This means that around 400 million portions of pasta are served every day. If passive cooking was adopted by a large number of people, it would make a real impact on the planet.”

The technique was suggested by Nobel winning physicist Giorgio Parisi, 74, after he studied old and new methods of cooking.

But the energy saving tip has landed its proponents in hot water at home and wherever Italians cook pasta.

‘I don’t know if it will catch on’

Gennaro Esposito, one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs, said: “There’s a thousand ways we can cut back on heating costs, from wearing an extra jumper to turning down the central heating.

“But cooking a plate of pasta is a liturgy. Maccheroni, paccheri, bucatini and co rehydrate when placed in boiling water and kept there for the right length of time.”

Mr Esposito, whose Torre del Saracino restaurant in Naples has two Michelin stars, told Corriere Della Sera, “‘Spaghetti alla Parisi’ can only end up being soggy.”

Giorgio Locatelli, the founder of the Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli in central London, doubts that many of his fellow countrymen will adopt the advice.

“Italians are very wedded to their local, family traditions, especially when it comes to cooking, so I don’t know if it will catch on,” he said.

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