Flat pasta into a flat box

Publication date: July 15, 2022
Organisation: Morphing Matter Lab

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have developed an edible flat pasta called Morphing Pasta. The flat-packed and stackable pasta, which only takes shape in boiling water, is more sustainable when it comes to packaging, transportation and storage.

Flat pasta into a flat box

Ikea has been doing it for years: packing furniture as flat as possible for efficient transportation. Inspired by this approach and from a sustainability point of view, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University developed the Morphing Pasta: a two-dimensional pasta that only acquires its three-dimensional shape in boiling water. According to the researchers, flat, stackable dry pasta requires fifty to seventy percent less packaging and therefore less storage and transportation space, and fewer trucks need to hit the road.  

With packaged macaroni, about sixty percent of the space in the box or bag consists of air. The new pasta form sits flat and straight in the plastic bags and is therefore more efficiently packed. Each mold has micro-grooves in one side of the flat dough. During cooking, the groove side expands less than the smooth side, causing the pasta to change into the desired 3D shape: into shells, like conchiglie pasta, into long spirals like fusilli, or into waves, curls, butterflies or tubes. 

Flat-packed pasta can also reduce the carbon footprint of cooking. In Italy, for example, pasta cooking causes about one percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Because flat pasta cooks faster than tubular pasta with a cooking time of just seven minutes, less energy is required during the cooking process and those emissions can be reduced.

The flat pasta is made according to authentic Italian pasta recipe from semolina, flour and water. Preliminary taste tests show that the pasta has the same taste and mouthfeel as the traditional version. The pasta may even be more palatable: because the grooves increase the surface area of a piece of pasta, more sauce sticks to the pasta.

Morphing Pasta is a great example of Rethink and Reduce: by making adjustments to the product, the packaging becomes more efficient.