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Italians divided as soaring energy bills spark pasta debate

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By Euronews  with AP
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A woman spoons onto a plate some "spaghetti alla Carbonara" during a cooking competition on the eve of the Carbonara Day
A woman spoons onto a plate some "spaghetti alla Carbonara" during a cooking competition on the eve of the Carbonara Day   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Soaring energy bills have sparked a fierce debate in Italy over the best way to cook pasta.

Italians are divided: some maintain that pasta can be cooked in water that has reached its boiling point and then had the heat cut. 

Others think that this amounts to culinary heresy, such as Wasfi Mesieha, chef at Sabatino traditional restaurant in Rome.

"Pasta can cook by itself, without a flame. If you reach the 100 degrees boiling temperature, you can turn the flame off and pasta will continue cooking, but it will cook really badly," he said.

Mesieha, who made the traditional Roman Carbonara pasta for former US President Bill Clinton and a number of presidents and first ladies in his long career, speaks from experience.

His employer Luigina Pantalone, whose family has been running the Sabatino restaurant in central Rome for almost 100 years, is concerned about rising energy costs.

But she does not think that saving on gas is a viable solution for her business, as her customers want pasta "al dente", which means firm to the bite and not overcooked.

"We were just getting out from the pandemic that really knocked us out and just now that we are working and making some profits, we are suffering the increase of gas bills and energy. This is creating a lot of problems to our business management, because we are trying not to change our prices, but I am not sure for how long we will resist," said Pantalone.

Despite this, leading Italian pasta producers association, Unione Italiana Food, estimated those who use the controversial approach without flame could save up to 47% of the gas they normally consume for the traditional cooking method.

Some Italian households are considering it amid soaring bills, especially as the gas price at the Amsterdam TTF benchmark is still seven times higher than what it was back in 2021.

According to the organisation, nine out of 10 Italians keep the flame on during the cooking of pasta.

Nevertheless, for traditionalists there are two easy tips to save on energy: keep the lid on the pot while you bring the water to the boiling point and use just 700 millilitres of water for every 100 grams of pasta, not more.