A Nobel Physicist Explained How to Cook Pasta And Now Everybody's Angry
Italians are notoriously – and understandably – protective of their cuisine, as regular arguments about the correct toppings for pizza or the appropriate pasta to use with a Bolognese ragu will attest.

Oddly, I hadn’t put much thought into the energy costs of cooking pasta before…

This article estimates the UK spends £4,690,000 per week on it! And suggests possibly greener ways of cooking it. It’s a small amount per person, but there’s a lot of people (I hope) making pasta!

Pasta is essentially just fancy wheat. We could cook wheat like we cook rice. That would leave out the pasta making process and therefor way less energy usage. If we soak the whole wheat before (like we soak beans), it would be even less energy usage.

Interesting thought. In order to use way less energy, we could start to use way more basic food for the most part of the week, and maybe - for preservation of culture and also for joy and taste - have one day where we feast “old school”.

I think the energy could be dramatically lowered.

Also, because I today was buying kitchen stuff… there are double walled pots who save a ridiculous amount of energy as well, you need a quarter, not more. They are insulated. For whole wheat or rice, it’s enough to heat up water to boiling temp, and then just switch off the heat and let the isolation do its thing. But instead of these very nice and useful pots, everyone has single walled ones, and most people are not even using the lid - which easily cuts energy usage in half.

Sadly, those double walled pots are rather rare and incredibly pricey.


[…] We could cook wheat like we cook rice. That would leave out the pasta making process and therefor way less energy usage. If we soak the whole wheat before (like we soak beans), it would be even less energy usage.

Pastiera napoletana is the dish you are looking for, and it’s delicious:

By Mattia Luigi Nappi (Mattia Luigi Nappi) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1954385

It’s made with grano cotto – cooked wheat grain – which unfortunately takes much longer to cook than pasta does:

The wheat needs to be soaked at least 24 hours before it is cooked. When using durum wheat (the usual in Southern Italy), it needs to be soaked for 3 days and the water needs to be changed each morning and each evening. With our soft wheat, 24 hours is sufficient. The wheat is then cooked with milk, lemon zest, and butter until it is al dente. This takes about an hour and a half, or half that time with a pressure cooker.

Pastiera napoletana is the dish you are looking for

This looks delicious, indeed! :)

But I meant literal wheat grains simply cooked to be eaten like rice. Technically speaking, you can eat any wheat grain like that, though you seem to be right that some wheat varieties need longer cooking times.

This is true for durum wheat (“durum” means hard in latin). This wheat seems to be used for pasta and bulgur, and both are pre-cooked. “Common wheat” (in Germany called “Weichweizen”: soft wheat) seems to have only a fraction of the cooking times. This includes dinkel wheat, which seems to be rather quick to cook.

I have no idea about the nutritional differences between those. But nevertheless, very interesting to think about the implications of wheat variets on cooking energy.

On the other hand, highly optimizing your pasta cooking for energy consumption is kind of a misuse of time. Going vegan or picking locally sourced in season foods is going to be far more impactful. Still a neat intellectual exercise, though.

I’m not really enjoying this argument. The way I understand it, you argue against this way of saving energy, because you personally think that another way of saving energy should be preferred. I say, let people discuss this topic and then decide for themselves.

Also, what about a vegan who tries to save all kinds of energies? Should they not do that for some reason? I kinda get the feeling that you think that vegans shouldn’t be doing any more, because they are doing enough. Is that how you see it? If not, sorry, then I misunderstood you.


Sorry, I was maybe too harsh there. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing to talk about. But I have observed with environmentalism a tendency to focus too much on changes that are of marginal consequence at the expense of changes that are more impactful. After all, we all have a limited amount of time and energy to devote.

Edit: To demonstrate, boiling 1 liter of water in an electric kettle emits 70g of carbon according to one person on the Internet (I’ll assume that’s generally true). In contrast, a flight produces 101g per km per passenger. Taking just one flight per year would dwarf any amount of spaghetti someone could eat.

i had read that there is a ubhealthy substance in pasta that needs to be deactivated through cooking. i cant find the info right now. on the other hand… aldente lowers glycemic index.

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