In a nation where cooking pasta is treated with religious respect, any challenge to the traditional way of doing things is bound to be seen as controversial, if not outright heretical.
So when one of Italy’s biggest pasta makers started telling its customers to ignore what generations of the country’s nonni (grandparents) had taught them, it was as if the pope had tells his flock to ignore one of the central tenets of Catholic dogma.
Italian children and cooks are taught from an early age that the water in which pasta is cooked should be kept boiling, to disperse the starch so the dish can be served al dente and not as a gooey mess.
But Barilla has now told pasta shoppers they can simply boil the water and turn off the pot after two minutes and put the lid on so the pasta sits in hot water until cooked.
Passive cooking “would have a real impact”
In its marketing material, it describes the technique, which it calls passive cooking, as “an alternative way of cooking pasta that reduces CO2 emissions by up to 80% compared to the traditional method”.
He says: “Passive cooking is a technique that has been around since the middle of the 19th century. About 16 million tons of pasta are produced worldwide. This means that around 400 million servings of pasta are served every day. If passive cooking were adopted by a large number of people, it would have a real impact on the planet.
The technique was suggested by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Giorgio Parisi, 74, after studying old and new cooking methods.
But the energy-saving advice has landed its supporters in hot water at home and wherever Italians cook pasta.
“I don’t know if it will work out”
Gennaro Esposito, one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs, said: “There are a thousand ways to cut heating costs, from wearing an extra sweater 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: “The ‘Spaghetti alla Parisi’ can only end up being soggy.”
Giorgio Locatelli, the founder of the Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli in central London, doubts many of his compatriots will embrace the advice.
“Italians are very attached to their local family traditions, especially when it comes to cooking, so I don’t know if that will catch on,” he said.