A flat pasta such as a lasagna can be made to take shape during cooking, with an extraordinary saving on the packaging and transport costs.
Sustainable innovation - developed by a group of Chinese and American researchers we contacted - has not yet found the industrial application it deserves.
1) Sustainability of pasta and its the packaging
The paste it is a sustainable food par excellence, especially when produced from organic wheat. (1) It can even reach a negative carbon footprint, as demonstrated in the productions from ancient organic grains. (2)
Sustainability environmental protection of pasta has therefore so far concentrated on primary agricultural production, even in the variants'without glyphosate' is 'zero residues'of pesticides. (3) Besides, lastly, in the choice of the packaging in paper without transparent plastic windows.
1.1) Areas for improvement
Areas of improvement can be seen in the optimization of industrial processes, the recovery of heat and processing water, the use of renewable energy sources, the automation and ecological transition of logistics and transport.
A cost item significant is however represented by the packaging, logistics and transport of millions of cubic meters of air occupied by the packaging volumes of some pasta shapes in particular (eg tagliatelle, rigatoni, fusilli).
1.2) Circular economy
The circular economy finds its first and best expression, on top of Lansink scale, in the reduction of materials. The verb Cut Back inspired the design of IKEA furniture, with a view to minimizing the dimensions of their packaging.
The food sector has so far favored appearance. And it is also therefore that the sale of bulk food and the reuse of the packaging they have not yet achieved the success they deserve (4,5). But transporting air with skyrocketing sea freight costs is really unsustainable.
A research team area of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the Syracuse University and Zhejiang University has developed a flat pasta that assumes the desired shape during cooking. (6) The pasta recipe, please note, does not require any variation.
The dough of durum wheat semolina, water and salt - or other cereals and legumes (7) - is simply drawn into a flat sheet on which tiny grooves are impressed which cause it to transform into tubes, spirals, twists and waves. And so in the required formats.
Lining Yao - director of the Morphing Matter Lab nello Human-Computer Interaction Institute area of CMU School of Computer Science - explains how this technology, applied to design food, offers interesting results precisely in terms of sustainability. With a significant impact also in the reduction of carbon footprint of the production and distribution chain.
The grooves they can be used to control the shape of a wide range of materials, from silicon sheets to plastics, rubber, textiles, biomedical devices and food. The research was funded by the US National Science Foundation, CMU Manufacturing Futures Initiative and National Natural Science Foundation (China).
Some industries food, including Italian, have expressed interest in the research in question. The interest has focused on the space and money savings that can be achieved through the 'morphing paste', but also on the experience of the consumer who witnesses the change in shape of the pasta during cooking.
The lab of Lining - as Chris Kissell, associate director of Corporate Partnerships at CMU - focuses on fundamental research. His partner ideal is the one that funds research in view of its industrial scalability and application to pasta destined for mass market. Maybe even in Italy, where the birth of flat pasta is also celebrated. (8)
(1) Dario Dongo, Paolo Caruso. Sustainability of pasta, ancient and modern grains compared. Scientific study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.11.19,
(2) Paolo Caruso, Dario Dongo. Ancient grains and the fight against climate change, scientific study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.4.19,
(3) Dario Dongo. Without glyphosate, zero residues, values and rules. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 10.11.18,
(4) Marta Strinati. Bulk food at the supermarket, the ecological transition in France. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.5.21,
(5) Marta Strinati. Encouraging the reuse of food containers, the PLEF Manifesto. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.6.22,
(6) Aaron Aupperlee. CMU Lab Leads Development of Pasta That Morphs. Carnegie Mellon University news. 13.5.21, https://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2021/may/morphing-pasta.html
(7) Dario Dongo. Durum wheat pasta, other cereals, legumes. The ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.11.19,
(8) Massimo Lanari. Lasagne, the eternal challenge between Bologna and Naples. The Italian kitchen. 12.10.15, https://www.lacucinaitaliana.it/news/in-primo-piano/lasagne-storia/