Of pasta and patents

According to the Encyclopedia of Pasta, there are hundreds of pasta shapes. At Smithsonian, Elizabeth Chu and D. Lawrence Tarazano of the US Patent Office look at relatively recent machinery to crank out the floury forms. From Smithsonian:

The various shapes can be categorized based on the means by which they are formed: by hand, rolled into sheets, or extruded. For each pasta making method, there have been a number of inventions to ease and mechanize the process.

Pastas formed by hand have been the most difficult to replicate by machine because of the complexity of the actions done by hand. Cavatelli, gnocchi and orecchiette, for example, are made by rolling pasta dough by hand into a long snake shape, cutting it into equal sized dough pieces, and dragging the dough to form a cup like shape. With cavatelli and gnocchi, the dough is dragged against a fork or grooved surface with a thumb to form a curled dough piece in the shape of a hot dog bun; the only real difference between the two is the dough. Gnocchi is made from a dough containing eggs, flour and cooked potatoes, whereas cavatelli are typically made from an eggless semolina wheat dough. Orecchiette, Italian for “little ear,” are made by dragging the dough pieces against a flat surface using a small spatula or knife, followed by a little hand shaping to round it out.

Italian inventors Franco Annicchiarico and Adima Pilari, who received U.S. patent no. 4,822,271 on April 18, 1989 for “an improved machine for manufacturing short cut varieties of Italian pasta (orecchiette, etc.),” developed a machine for making these cupped pastas.

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Why dry spaghetti shatters when you snap it

When you snap dry spaghetti before dropping it into the pot, it sometimes results in an explosion of shards. To understand the physics of the phenomenon, MIT mathematicians used computer simulation and a custom machine to break lots of sticks of spaghetti. It turned out that spaghetti that's twisted first reduces the strength of vibrations that cause more cracks. From Science News:

This strategy may not be much practical help in the kitchen; Patil and colleagues aren’t selling their spaghetti snapper for $19.95 — and even if they were, meticulously twisting and bending pieces of pasta one-by-one is hardly efficient meal prep. Still, the discovery of the bend-and-twist technique may lend new insight into controlling the breakage of all kinds of brittle rods, from pole vault sticks to nanotubes.

And from their scientific paper in PNAS:

Fracture processes are ubiquitous in nature, from earthquakes to broken trees and bones. Understanding and controlling fracture dynamics remain one of the foremost theoretical and practical challenges in material science and physics. A well-known problem with direct implications for the fracture behavior of elongated brittle objects, such as vaulting poles or long fibers, goes back to the famous physicist Richard Feynman who observed that dry spaghetti almost always breaks into three or more pieces when exposed to large bending stresses. While bending-induced fracture is fairly well understood nowadays, much less is known about the effects of twist. Our experimental and theoretical results demonstrate that twisting enables remarkable fracture control by using the different propagation speeds of twist and bending waves.

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Making your own pasta is stupid easy

Given that I started a keto diet last weekend, I couldn;t have stumbled across this video at a worse time (farewell, carbs. I knew thee well.)

But just because I can only stare at this video longingly doesn't mean that you can't partake. Read the rest

Flying Spaghetti Monster pasta strainer

Ototo's Flying Spaghetti Monster pasta strainer is a houseware, a religious artefact and a novelty item, all rolled into one $17 package! (via Geeks Are Sexy) Read the rest

Thomas Jefferson, the great importer of mac 'n cheese

Thank you to the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, for recognizing the greatness of French food and imported macaroni and cheese where it has (d)evolved into its own food group.

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Pasta made from insects selling well in France!

Atelier a Pates, a small artisanal pasta shop in Thiefosse, France, has a booming business in radiatori, fusilli, spaghetti and penne made from seven percent pulverized crickets and grasshoppers. From CTV News:

Four years on with the addition of insect flour to the mix, "it's working so well that we will soon be able to hire a second person," (proprietor Stephanie) Richard says, proud of her weekly production now at some 400 kilos (880 pounds).

And she does not plan to stop there: she is working on a new recipe using Maroilles cheese from northern France, and plans to start making stuffed pastas.

At a little over six euros ($6.60) for a 250 gramme (about half a pound) package, insect flour pastas are more expensive than standard kinds, but Richard notes that they can replace meat for vegetarians -- or for people who prefer crickets.

"People with iron or magnesium deficiencies will also eat these products," she says.

"French pasta-maker struggling to keep up with demand for insect noodles" (CTV News) Read the rest

Gay Pasta War heats up

After Barilla chairman Guido Barilla announced in a radio interview that "he would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family," his competitor Bertolli started posting delightfully saucy images to promote itself as a gay-friendly pasta manufacturer. Read the rest