Scientists are cooking up a new recipe to make pasta last longer

Pasta, one of the most popular foods in the world, is serious business in Italy. There are over 300 specific shapes of pasta known by 1,300 names. Although a 55-year-old “pasta law” governs the production and manufacture of pasta, that doesn’t mean the popular food can’t undergo innovation.

Italian researchers have discovered a new recipe to make fresh pasta last longer. With this recipe, the shelf life of fresh pasta can be extended by 30 days. This is a new packaging process that involves applying bioprotective probiotic cultures to pasta dough for better preservation. The study describing the new recipe was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

What are dry pasta and fresh pasta?

Dry pasta and fresh pasta are two different forms of pasta. Dry pasta is made with semolina flour, water and salt, while fresh pasta is made with all-purpose flour or 00 flour, which contains 12% gluten, and eggs, and contains more moisture than dry pasta. Since dried pasta has a low moisture content, it can be stored for a long time at room temperature. However, fresh pasta is prone to spoilage and should be refrigerated. Fresh pasta takes half the time to cook than dry pasta.

How is fresh pasta produced and stored conventionally?

Fresh pasta is usually produced by an industrial process that includes heat treatment of the product, which is equivalent to pasta pasteurization. Once the pasta is ready, it is stored in modified atmospheric packaging (MAP). This is a packaging technique that consists of eliminating oxygen and replacing it with other gases within a packaging made of plastic film. Typically, an inert gas combined with an antimicrobial gas is used to extend the shelf life of a food product. The inert gas used is usually nitrogen, while the antimicrobial gas used is carbon dioxide.

Problems with storing fresh pasta

Fresh pasta, if stored in the refrigerator, has a shelf life of between 30 and 90 days. Even if fresh pasta is refrigerated, several things can go wrong and degrade the quality of the pasta. If conditions are favorable for bacteria, such as excessive humidity, some bacteria may survive the heat treatment.

Therefore, chemical preservatives are often used to help retain freshness. However, it is not something preferable for all consumers. There are many customers who prefer natural, “clean label” products without artificial or synthetic ingredients. For them, the options available to extend the shelf life of fresh pasta are limited.

New recipe to make pasta last longer

A team of researchers has developed a new “clean labeling” method to minimize spoilage issues. First, the researchers changed the ratio of “modified atmospheric packaging” gases to the combination of plastic films used in the packaging to better control microbial growth and impermeability. Next, the team added a multi-strain probiotic blend to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

After that, the scientists tested the new protocol using a type of short, thin, twisted pasta called trofie. The team made three assortments of fresh pasta. One set was conventionally manufactured and packaged, while the second was traditionally manufactured but stored in experimental modified atmospheric packaging. The team added the bioprotective probiotic strains to a third set of fresh trofie.

The third set was then stored in the experimental packaging. After that, the scientists waited.

How the new recipe works

A few months later, the researchers used high-tech methods such as gene sequencing to identify microbial compositions and mass spectrometry to profile volatile organic compounds. Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio of one or more molecules present in a sample. The researchers found that trofie pasta treated with antimicrobial bioprotective probiotics in the experimental modified atmospheric packaging had the best shelf life of the three experiments, according to the study.

In a statement published by Frontiers, Dr. Francesca De Leo, one of the authors of the paper, said the results demonstrate that the modified atmospheric packaging, together with the spray-dried bioprotective probiotic cultures, acted synergistically. to control microbial spoilage of fresh pasta during refrigerated storage.

The new recipe will help fight against food waste

According to Dr. Leo, the technique she has developed could be introduced at an industrial level. This would add 30 days of shelf life to pasta, compared to conventional products.

She said that from a consumer perspective, a definite benefit of this product is the long shelf life and ease of storage. She adds that this may be particularly important given that consumers increasingly tend to reduce the frequency of their food purchases, and therefore store as much as possible at home.

Dr. Leo added that the value of the research goes beyond finding a better way to keep pasta fresh longer by helping to reduce food waste. About a third of all food produced each year is lost before it can be eaten, estimates the World Food Programme.

Dr. Leo said that food waste and loss have a great influence on the ecological and environmental sustainability of the food system, and that the adoption of innovative technological solutions for the prevention of food waste, such as the one described in the study, can help eradicate these problems. . For this to become a reality, companies must be ready to take up the challenge and innovate.