Italy is home to an estimated 350 pasta shapes. But you will have to leave the peninsula to find the country’s rarest pasta.
The island of Sardinia is where you will find the rarest pasta in the world: Su Filindeu. Meaning “the threads of God” in Sardo, su filindeu are long strands of pasta that can only be made by hand.
Making su filindeu is a tedious process and a dying art that only a handful of women in Sardinia know how to do. I was told that there are only eight women on earth who can still make su filindeu. Others say even fewer. What is known is that su filindeu comes from the interior of Sardinia, particularly in the environs of Nuoro, where a pilgrimage to eat su filindeu takes place twice yearly.
During a visit to the subregion of Gallura, I had the privilege of meeting one of those women. Gianfranca Dettori is a master su filindeu maker and the only certified chef who can make the thread-like pasta. It takes her about 4.5 hours to make the pasta from start to finish, from kneading finely ground semolina and water into a dough; pulling and folding the dough until it separated into dozens of thin threads, and then placing the strands on a fundu, a round tray that allows the layered strands of pasta to dry.
With her steady hand and calm demeanor, Gianfranca makes the su filindeu process look easy. But so many people, including famous chefs like Jamie Oliver, have tried and failed to make it.
After the sheet of su filindeu threads has dried, textured pieces are cut or broken off of the round and are served with a lamb broth. It seems like an awful lot of work for a bowl of soup, but who am I to question tradition?
Dettori can also make all manner of other dough-based products, from long and short pasta to decorative breads to too-pretty-to-eat cookies. Here are videos of her shaping and cutting dough for decorative Sardinian bread.
I was thoroughly wowed by Gianfranca’s pasta- and bread-making techniques and am so happy that I am able to share them here. If you want to see more of what she is up to, follow Gianfranca Dettori on Instagram.