Grandma's secrets: pasta al dente - Taalhuis Amsterdam

Grandma’s secrets: pasta al dente

Besides the pandemic, the lockdown and the flattening of the curve, another very serious issue is bothering the Italians: their pasta’s cooking time.


I am totally serious.


Everybody knows that different types and sizes of pasta have different cooking times. Yes, but how to know them? Easy: the cooking time is indicated on the package. Yes, but…where? That’s a good question.


It feels like Barilla, De Cecco, Divella, Rummo and the other big pasta producers are amusing themselves by hiding this vital information from their customers, who are completely lost into the misty design of the packages while desperately looking for the answer to the question: for how many minutes should I cook this?


If you think it is not a serious problem, you are wrong: there’s even a movement, ‘Il movimento grandi minuti‘, founded by an Italian communications agency, Hub09 Brand People, from Torino. The creatives have completely redesigned the individual packages where now – before any other indication – the preparation times stand out in large letters. Of course, the project has already gone viral.

Hub09 Brand People’s idea is clearly a provocation, as well as a commercial gimmick… but there is a grain of truth. Pasta lovers are truly obsessed with the right cooking time of their beloved meal: that’s how you show respect for the food itself. But, above all, that’s how you show love and caring for the people who are sharing that food with you.


If you think I’m being too dramatic, here’s a story for you.


Between 13:00 and 13:30 it was forbidden to use the telephone in my grandparents’ house, because they would be waiting for ‘I tre colpi’: the telephone would ring three times, only three, then silence. That was the signal agreed between my mother and hers – my grandmother – in order for grandma to calculate the time to wait before throwing the pasta into boiling water.


In my family, my grandmother was in charge of the kitchen department and she used to run it with a Prussian general’s iron fist: there was no room for improvisation there. Of course, she could count on a very valid subordinate: my grandfather.


Here is the whole story.


Before leaving her office, my mother used to phone her parents from the phone at her desk (cell phones were not there yet). The grandparents’ home phone would ring three times – drin drin driiiiin – the rings were intercepted by my grandfather who ran into the kitchen to announce it:


“I tre colpi!” he would say.


“How many minutes?” grandma would ask.


Then grandpa would check on the pasta package and announce: “8 minutes” or “11 minutes“, depending on which kind of pasta we were going to eat that day.


Time to do the calculation: it would take exactly 35 minutes from my mother’s workplace to my grandparents’ home, with a very quick stop to pick me and my sister up from school.


Let’s say we were going to eat fusilli with pesto – fusilli’s preparation time is 11 minutes.

Ok, let’s do the math:


35 minutes – 11 minutes – 1 minute (the time it takes for the water to boil again) =

23 minutes to wait before throwing the pasta into boiling water.


“Fair enough: in 23 minutes possiamo calare!”  would grandma officially declare.


Thanks to this high-precision work, my mother, my sister and I have always had a perfectly al dente pasta dish, every day, for many many years.


Fanatic? Maybe. But how much love is there in this sweet little obsession?!


(Thanks to Marzia Ruta for sharing her family’s secrets!).

icon_mail icon_phone facebook twitter instagram linkedin youtube curl icon_location icon_close icon_clock icon_calender icon_arrow-black icon_arrow-white dropdown icon_min icon_plus placeholder books France_02 calendar clock location Created with Sketch.