Pappardelle, farfalle, conchiglie and more. Pasta comes in so many delicious shapes and sizes but what if there were a way to make these shapes even more interesting and turn cooking into a science experiment?
A research group led by Lining Yao from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have found a way to turn flat sheets of pasta into three-dimensional shapes such as spirals, twists and waves during cooking. The scientists shared their invention in the May 2021 issue of the Science Advances journal.
The technique they devised uses grooves that are embossed in various shapes into the noodle dough, which consists only of durum wheat semolina and water.
"We were inspired by flat-pack furniture and how it saves space, makes storage easier and reduces the carbon footprint associated with transportation," Yao says in a press release from her university. "The morphed pasta looks, feels and, most importantly, tastes like traditional pasta," it adds.
Yao heads a lab that usually researches the morphing of materials such as plastic, rubber and fabric. To make models for the pasta dough, the scientists used the silicone oil PDMS, which exhibits similar properties, and computer simulations.
The researchers worked out how they had to stamp the grooves in the flat pasta sheets in order to create certain shapes when cooked. "The groove side expands less than the smooth side, leading the pasta to morph into shape," said co-author Teng Zhang from Syracuse University in New York.
The researchers developed numerous other pasta shapes, from rose petals to cone and pyramid-like shapes. Their goal is to reduce packaging and transportation space. "Morphing flat pasta into a helical shape when cooked could save up to 60% of the packaging space," write Yao and colleagues.
The university also writes that the lab pasta has already passed a practical test. Lead author Ye Tao took the flat-pack pasta with her on a hiking trip. It took up less space in her backpack, it didn't break and cooked successfully on a portable gas stove.
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