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Modeling the Mechanics of Cooking Spaghetti

oliver oreilly's picture

Dear Colleague,

In case you are getting tired of the holiday fare, you might enjoy a recent paper, coauthored with Nate Goldberg, on modeling the mechanics of spaghetti cooking that has just been published in Physical Review E:

In the paper, we propose a minimal model for the cooking-induced deformation of spaghetti and related food products. Our approach has parallels to the use of rod theories for the mechanics of slender bodies undergoing growth (particularily the works by Goriely and Goldstein [1] and O'Reilly and Tresierras [2].

Figure 1.

As the strand cooks it swells in diameter and length, has an evolving mass density and flexural rigidity, and develops an intrinsic curvature. The latter is similar to the evolution of curvature in plant stem growth. 

Figure 3

Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of a wealth of experimental data collected by Del Nobile and colleagues in Italy. We used our model to investigate the cooking of a single strand of spaghetti confined to a pot and were able to reproduce a curious three-stage deformation sequence that arises in the cooking process. A video comparing experimental work to the model accompanies the published paper and can also be seen here:


Given that a search on google scholar for "the mechanics of spaghetti" will turn up over 13,000 results, it's suprising that no one has previously developed a mechanics-based model for the cooking of a strand. In this respect, we note that similar models can be used to model the cooking of noodles,  lasagne and other types of pasta.  We were fortunate to be able to use a relatively simple rod model. For many types of pasta, shell models will be needed. 



[1] A. Goriely, R.E. Goldstein, Dynamic buckling of morphoelastic filaments, Physical Review E, Volume 74, Number 1, 2006


[2] O.M. O’Reilly, T.N. Tresierras, On the evolution of intrinsic curvature in rod-based models of growth in long slender plant stems, International Journal of Solids and Structures, Volume 48, Issue 9, 2011, Pages 1239-1247.

[3] M. A. Del Nobile and M. Massera, Modeling of water sorption kinetics in spaghetti during overcooking. Cereal Chemistry, Vol. 77, 2000, page 615 





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