Italian Nobel Prize Winner in Hot Water Over Cooking Tip

| Tue, 09/13/2022 - 11:54
Boiling pasta water

After offering (ostensibly) helpful cooking advice for those concerned about Europe's looming energy crisis, and the home-hitting consequences of inflation, 2021 Italian Nobel laureate in physics, Giorgio Parisi, has found himself in hot water. 

On his personal Facebook profile, Parisi recently re-shared a post from Alessandro Busiri Vici encouraging followers to save a few centesimi on gas costs by cooking pasta without continuously leaving the heat on. All it takes, Busiri Vici’s original post explained, is bringing a pot of water to a boil, waiting two minutes, tossing in the pasta, closing the lid and turning off the burner. Wait just one minute past the prescribed cooking time — Busiri Vici advised — and voilà! Dinner is served.

Though many Italian media outlets initially misattributed the post to Parisi, the Nobel Prize winner simply added commentary to the original — and with caveats. Rather than turning off the gas completely, Parisi suggested, cooks should tighten the lid and turn the gas to the lowest possible setting, “so that [the water] boils ever so lightly, without consuming gas.” He noted, however, that following Busiri Vici’s method would allow one to save “even more gas, obviously, and the pasta will cook well all the same.”

Like pizza, however, pasta in Italy is nothing to be trifled with: Reactions to both men’s posts were swift and far-reaching.

For some, Parisi’s money-saving method is a step too far. Several prominent Italian chefs got fired up and weighed in on the “simmering” controversy. 

One has called for the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist to stay in his lane. "Passively cooked pasta? Deal with what you won the Nobel Prize for, and don't talk nonsense," barked restaurateur and TV personality, Antonello Colonna. He believes Parisi’s approach is a recipe for “rubbery” disaster. 

On the other hand, chef Davide Scabin, who’s spearheaded several prominent eateries in Piedmont, agrees with Parisi, seeing no harm in his theory. When speaking with national Italian daily La Repubblica last week, Scabin said, “Parisi is right, pasta can be cooked with the heat off.” Scabin even revealed that he’s personally been employing the technique since 2011. (At the time of writing, however, Scabin's well-regarded eatery at Turin's Mercato Centrale was recently announced to be closing for good — though pasta-cooking methods weren't cited as a cause.)

At a time when Europe is already dealing with inflation worries, Moscow is planning to turn off the gas. 

Last week, Vladimir Putin threatened to shut down its Nord Stream pipeline to Europe in response to the West’s sanctions against Russia, causing oil prices to surge as much as 30 percent. This could mean pain at the pump and winter heating woes for consumers.

In response to the budgetary crunch, restaurant owners throughout Italy have been posting their snowballing gas bills (bollette) in windows as a way of justifying the sticker shock patrons are experiencing. The nationwide initiative, Bollette in Vetrina ("Bills in the Window"), was organized to draw attention to the reality that bars and restaurants must raise their prices or close. Many are hoping the incoming government will intervene more concretely — Italy's general election is set for September 25.

As for Parisi, he's sure to catch a break once the next salty controversy bubbles up.