Why spaghetti “never snap into two equal halves”

Here’s an enigma which has driven researchers and scientists from every latitude “crazy”: why do spaghetti never snap into two equal halves? What looks like a game in actual fact is far from it. In 1939, even Richard Feynman, world-famous physicist and the father of modern quantum theory, did everything in his power to find a possible explanation. He would grab a strand of spaghetti, watch it bend and then snap...

Finally, after more than 60 years of (failed) attempts, two researchers from Boston MIT succeeded in the arduous feat which they explained in an interview for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences magazine. But how did they manage it? Ronald Heisser and Vishal Patil began to bend pieces of pasta in 2015, but they only recently realized that the effect they were seeking could be obtained by twirling the strand of spaghetti on its own axis. The only problem was using a force that proved stronger than that of their hands. To do this, Heisser built a device to twist and turn the strands of spaghetti in a controlled manner. The experiment, according to the article, leads to the same results “both using Barilla spaghetti no. 5 as well as the no. 7”. This study on Barilla spaghetti will be especially useful better to understand the phenomena that go beyond the mere culinary aspect. It will, for instance, be possible to guess how specific cracks are formed or understand why some materials, which are quite different from one another, incur breakages or fractures: from the latest-generation nanotubes to the microtubules in our cells.

And for use in cooking pasta? The instrumental tests that Italian pasta-makers apply to pasta before placing it on the market have nothing to do with those used in the MIT study, but their objective is most of all to guarantee its al dente texture, according to the following criteria: resilience, springiness, uniformity, stickiness, how it absorbs sauce, firmness during cooking and texture when served. The ability of the pasta-maker lies in making a product that makes the time lapse during which the pasta retains its perfect firmness as long as possible. One of the pasta quality tests is that it is resilient. Resilience is the effort required to bite through pasta with your teeth: its resistance to cutting, springiness and the ability to retain these performance levels in conditions of stress (over-cooking, awaiting service, etc.) are fundamental characteristics to understand whether a pasta is high quality. Another characteristic is constituted by how many pieces remain intact after cooking and how many have split or broken up, how many have become stuck to one another, and how many are undercooked. It goes without saying that the greater the quantity of faulty “pieces”, the lower the quality of the pasta and its al dente retention.
And lastly, one golden rule to cook the perfect pasta dish: please don’t snap the spaghetti in two... Enjoy your meal!