The dried pasta you can get off the shelf has wonderful applications, but in many dishes, I think fresh pasta is the best. Making it yourself takes time, though, and the stuff from the supermarket’s fridge section doesn’t last long enough to make it a reliable staple. But Italian scientists have been bending their minds toward this (distinctly Italian) problem, and have figured out a way to extend the shelf life of fresh pasta: by reinventing the packaging, the atmosphere inside it, and the microbial profile of the pasta itself. This has on average doubled the lifespan of the pasta, which (the researchers hope) can help reduce food waste and, in turn, the carbon footprint of the pasta production industry itself.
“Scientists in Italy report that they worked with a pasta factory in Altamura to create 144 samples of short, thin twisted pasta known as trofie. One set of 48 samples was packaged using conventional film and a packaging atmosphere composed of 20% carbon dioxide to 80% nitrogen.
A second set of 48 samples was packaged with a film that was less permeable to water and oxygen and with an atmosphere of 40% carbon dioxide to 60% nitrogen, while the third set of 48 samples also used these new conditions but, in addition, had a multi-strain probiotic mixture added to the pasta dough. The samples were all stored at 4C.
The team reported that the conventionally packaged pasta showed decreasing carbon dioxide levels over a 90-day storage period, resulting in the growth of visible moulds. By contrast, the two types of experimental samples had an almost stable atmosphere, and no fungal growth, over a 120 -day period.”
As a culinarily distinct culture, Italy is very careful about the provenance and creation of its food. So the researchers made sure their interventions are well within regulations—and were indeed undertaken at the express request of the factory with which they collaborated. Next steps will now involve investigating long term feasibility of this starchy overhaul. I’m a big fan of any innovation that brings more pasta to more people—almost as much of a fan as I am of pasta itself!