Barilla’s Open Source Tool For Perfect Pasta

Cooking pasta is perhaps one of the easiest things you can do in the kitchen, second only to watching a pot of water boil. But as pasta maker Barilla points out on their website, you can reduce your meal’s CO₂ emissions by up to 80% if you simply let the pasta sit in the hot water rather than actively boil it the whole time — a technique known as passive cooking.

The trick is getting the timing right, so in a fairly surprising move, Barilla has released the design for an open source device that will help you master this energy-saving technique. Granted it’s not a terribly complex piece of hardware, consisting of little more than an Arduino Nano 33 BLE, an NTC probe, and a handful of passive components wrapped up in a 3D-printed case. But the documentation is great, and we’ve got to give Barilla credit for going way outside of their comfort zone with this one.

Magnets in the 3D printed case let it stick to the lid of your pot, and when it detects the water is boiling, the gadget alerts your phone (at least for this version of the device, an Android or iOS application is required) that it’s time to put in the pasta. A few minutes later it will tell you when you can turn off the burner, after which it’s just a matter of waiting for the notification that your passively-cooked pasta is ready to get pulled out.

Like the prop making video Sony put out after the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, we recognize that on some level this is an advertisement for Barilla pasta. But if developing useful open source gadgets that can be built by the public is what a company wants to spend their advertising dollars on, you won’t catch us complaining. Hell, we might even spring for a box of Barilla next time we’re in the store.

Thanks to [fgma] for the tip.

79 thoughts on “Barilla’s Open Source Tool For Perfect Pasta

  1. Reminds me of convincing my wife when boiling eggs, once the water’s boiling it doesn’t matter if it’s a vigorous boil or just simmering – the water’s at the same temperature; the only difference is how much extra energy you’re putting in to evaporate more water.

    1. Most modern sources will tell you to take the pot off the heat source once the water is boiling. Put a lid on it and let it sit for four (soft) to 10 (hard) minutes, then dunk the eggs in cold water.

      1. I watch a lot of cooking videos and cook a ot of eggs and find that wait till the water boils and cook for 6 and a half minutes works literally every time for a soft boiled egg.

        1. I steam my eggs in stead, only a little water is heated so it heats up very quickly, and the eggs in the basket cook in the same amount of time. The side effect is they seem MUCH easier to peel as well, even fresh eggs I can usually get the shell off in one piece

      2. I did that once, and the eggs didn’t cook properly because the pot cooled down too fast. I added the eggs to the boiling water, then took the pot off the stove.

        That had a funny side effect. Normally when the water is boiling hot, the white hardens already while the temperature in the middle is still rising, so you get a regular three-minute egg with a runny middle. If you cook the egg slowly in warm, not boiling water, it heats evenly throughout and the yolk gets cooked while the egg white doesn’t because the yolk actually cooks at a lower temperature. The egg white remains runny while the yolk hardens up into a ball. It becomes a reverse three-minute egg.

      1. I find that vigorous boil of pasta ruins the texture and flavor of imported pasta. I find that first bring to a boil with the pasta in, then reduce the heat as low as possible till the water with pasta is simply simmering boil. Keep it like this for 8-10 mins. I also add some EVOO while boiling, helps to eliminate sticking. I never had pasta ever stick to the bottom using this method and pasta is more tender and flavorful than rigorous boil.

    1. Virtue signalling is actually a good thing when practiced within reason: without aspirations there would be no morality, Since everyone is fallible, it’s important to have ideals.
      Your criticism could apply to any moral issue: just because it’s not always practiced (and maybe even not always practical), doesn’t mean that it’s not a worthy goal.

  2. Love this idea of getting as close as possible of the minimum energy consumption. I will try in coming days, without the gadget – 2minutes + 10 minutes (pipe rigate) is easy enough for a simple timer!

    1. Then there’s also the 90’s poverty pot method, which was a TV-shop item sold during the worst economic downturn: a styrofoam box just big enough to fit a single pot with a lid on top.

      You weight your pasta (or rice etc.) and boil about 4/5ths as much water in a kettle, then put both in the pot in the styrofoam box. If you got it right, the pasta will absorb all the water with nothing left over. That’s basically the absolute minimum energy way to do it.

        1. I immediately thought of the hay box! Don’t forget how expensive energy is in Europe nowadays. It makes sense that they should start looking back to the eastern bloc to stretch those resources.

          And I’d rather get food poisoning than carbon monoxide poisoning from the other varieties of “clever”

    2. I do this all the time backpacking. Soak in 2x the pasta’s weight of cold water, then bring it just to a boil, shut off the heat and let stand for 5 mins. Done. Thin pasta like angel hair just needs like 30 mins soak, for thicker stuff like fettuccini or whatever you need probably 90 minutes or 2 hours (or let it stand while hot for a while longer).
      Works also with shapes like rotini or whatever of course, but they don’t pack as efficiently – you need a bigger soak container and an excess of water to fully cover, so you waste fuel heating and then have to pour out (or drink!) the extra water.

      1. Makes sense while camping, because fuel is limited and the burners are inefficient.

        For cooking at home, if you leave a pot simmering for 1 hour on a hot plate on low (100-200 Watts), you’re spending about 5 cents worth of electricity at worst. The savings from turning the power off are negligible, and it just makes your cooking time longer.

        1. So electricity is to cheap?
          Cause the whole point is that also here the ressources are limited and the process is (energy-)inefficient.

          Not saying you should “actively” wating for it saving 5 cents while you could earn money during that time otherwise, but just because something is priced low it’s not necessarily low priority to think about it.

          1. If electricity was expensive enough that you’d mind spending 200 Watt-hours, then a whole lot of other things would be completely non-affordable as well. It’s equivalent to driving 1 kilometers in an electric car, or keeping the lights on for 10 hours. If that was expensive enough to care, we would be destitute.

            5 cents was based on present day prices that are already on the high end because of the geopolitical situation. In the real case, you don’t need to simmer a pot of pasta for one hour, and if the situation was normal you’d actually be spending less than 1 cent on the electricity.

          2. Also mind that bringing the pot to a boil already takes about 200 Watt-hours of energy in the first place, so you’re not actually saving all that much from the total.

  3. “Magnets in the 3D printed case let it stick to the lid of your pot”

    What? How?

    Do they even MAKE ferous metal pot lids? I have never heard of pot lids made of anything other than glass, aluminum, stainless steel, or MAYBE copper.

    Are they assuming people boil pasta in a cast iron pot?

  4. I’m not going to do any nitpicking on details, and I’m not going to build this device. But I still downloaded the files as a gesture of praise for a pasta company thinking about 3D printing, electronics, coding, and offering it as open source.

  5. Wrong.

    It has a thermometer and the type and brand of pasta is known: it’s Barilla! Barilla pasta “straws” are of uniform size, i.e. not hand made. Using time and temperature, it’s possible to back-calculate when it’s done. The boiling point is irrelevant (and so it the heat loss up to a certain extreme degree). If you read the whole article you would have understood that the whole point is to NOT push the water to the boiling point.

    Some other points people seem to miss in this thread:
    – Boiling will agitate the water. This mechanical moving around of things could possibly have an effect, especially regarding avoiding convection.
    – A vigorously rolling boil will have a slightly different temperature from a small simmer. If you don’t believe me, go measure it. I think this is because the escape of steam is not perfect. When calibrating thermometers against 100C, you’re told to make sure it’s boiling vigorously enough. It does make a difference, maybe more than you’d think.

  6. The impact of salt, at the concentrations used for cooking, is negligable. (Beyond causing my Italian American in-laws to argue endlessly about whether to add salt before or after the water is boiling). If you salt your water to the point where it starts to make the flavor unpleasant, you can expect to raise the boiling point by ~half a degree Kelvin. That is an increase in boiling temperature of 0.1% Kelvin.

    I heard from one chef that they only bother salting the water if it’s important for the flavor profile of the specific dish.

    As for barometric pressure, I assume it’s calibrated for operation near sea level. And it’s open source, so you could alter the timing if you live at high altitude.

      1. Pineapple? That’s just fine. Hawaiian pizza exists. Mustard? Weird, and sounds pretty gross, but you do you bud.

        Putting both on a pizza together, however, makes you a menace to society, you monster.

  7. I put the pasta in the water and then start heating the pot. In my experience, the pasta takes the same amount of time to cook to completion as if I started water on boil first.

    1. Who talks like and I quote” you is the stupids ” and ” is pasta is done” or uses the term ” catsup ” I think we have found the missing link in human evolution and the KING of the “STUPIDS! “

    2. It sounds like there’s only one way *you’ve* found to tell if pasta is done. Do you think it’s possible that a company that does nothing but make and market pasta, a company whose resident nerds do nothing but THINK ABOUT PASTA ALL THE TIME, do you think it’s at all possible that over all these years they might have learned something about pasta that you don’t know?

  8. Advertising that gives us useful open source hardware designs for the purpose of improving our energy efficiency, saving us money in the long run? Not even anti-capitalists can complain about this kind of advertising! (At least, not with any semblance of rational reasoning…)

  9. Sadly, it’s kind of open-source- the only license I could find was in the Arduino sketch, nothing with the models (and no .step’s, sadface).
    And the client software for iOS and Android doesn’t appear to be anywhere. A great effort, but room for improvement.

  10. So basically according to the guide, boil the water, add the pasta, let boil for 2 minutes, turn off, and let sit for a total pasta in water time of 1 minute longer than you usually do.

  11. I mean,

    You could just use half the water you normally do and the water would heat up significantly faster.

    If you want low energy usage, just soak the pasta first, then heat it up since that would take far less time.

  12. Of course, you should also taste the pasta and not trust the timer blindly, but I consider it useful nonetheless. Without a timer, I have to remember the pasta, try it several times and can’t concentrate on other things. With a timer in place I have my head clear, can prepare other dishes or talk to the guests.

  13. while i like the idea, it would be possible just to have a piezo buzzer or indicator led, rather than needing to use a smart phone. the app no doubt has tentacles. this is why i prefer dumb technology.

  14. This reminds me the use of sous vide cooking technique, I was thinking maybe to simply add water and pasta in a food saver pack and vacuum seal it, then let it cook on submerged controlled variable heated water. The benefit on this is 100% zero emission since using electricity and low water consumption using vacuum seal technique cooking and can reuse the water for heating the vacuum pack.

    1. This is so unnecessary. Company should be ashamed. Not only is the device useless, because you can just passive boil without one using your eyes to tell when the water is boiled and noodles soft, but a company boasting it reduces CO2 emissions? Way to shift blame on the consumer and not the massive company that ships products around the world.

      Another product that wastes resources and creates waste.

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