Extreme pasta shapes that never made it.
I recently came across a forgotten bit of history that might be of interest to you. It certainly grabbed my attention as it concerns two matters about which I am passionate.
What do the following cars have in common: Alfa Romeo Alfasud, Audi 80, BMW M1, De Tomaso Mangusta, De Lorean DMC-12, Ferrari GT Bertone, Fiat Spider, Fiat Uno, Ford Mustang (2006), Lamborghini Cala, Lexus GS, Lotus Esprit, Maserati Quattroporte, Saab 9000, VW Golf, VW Passat and VW Scirocco? While we’re at it, what do these cars have in common with the Ducati 860 GT motorcycle and the following Nikon camera bodies: F3, F4, F5, F6?
Give up? All of the above were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, one of the greatest industrial designers ever to come out of Italy. Giorgetto Giugiaro was named Car Designer of the Century in 1999. Now while I do have a certain interest in cars, it doesn’t come close to the passion I reserve for good design and fine food. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that Giugiaro had dabbled in pasta design.
In November 1983 Voiello, an innovative pasta manufacturing company in Naples owned by the Barilla group, decided to break the mold, so to speak, and develop a “modern” pasta shape. The assignment went to car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Giugiaro submitted 12 designs from which one was picked to go into production. Giugiaro named his pasta Marille.
Giugiaro took a very systematic approach to the problem. He realized that his new design should not absorb too much sauce and should increase its volume in water. The pasta should be both decorative and palatable. Of course his new shape should be produced by die extrusion.
Here are the only sketches and photos of Marille pasta I have been able to find. Notice the dual-tubular design and the protruding tongue. Unlike conventional rigatoni, the grooves or rugosities were on the concave surfaces of the tubes presumably to give better adherence to the sauce.
Unfortunately, Marille did not remain in production very long. As far as I can determine, problems were encountered with uneven cooking of various parts of shape. Judging from the available sketches and the photo above, my guess is that the junction of the 3 elements would have cooked much more slowly than the rest of the shape.
I think the Marille was, nevertheless, an innovative design even in spite of its troubles in hot water. I doubt much of it is still in existence but if you ever come across any, give me a shout.
Now you may have noticed that the title of this piece is in the plural. This is because as I was rooting around for more information on Mr. Giugiaro’s Marille, I happened upon a second designer pasta shape, this one by the equally famous Philippe Starck and called Mandala.
In 1987, the French pasta maker Panzani commissioned Starck to design a new pasta shape for them and this is what he came up with:
Perhaps, it would be best if I let Mr. Starck tell you about Mandala in his own words (from a lecture he gave at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in October 1997): “I was so happy because I’m very interested in things close to humans. I said, “OK, what can I do with pasta? Why do we love pasta? When do we love pasta? We love pasta when we are children, when we are sick, when we are stoned – ah! – or when we are old – in other words, when we are a bit regressed. But sometimes when you eat pasta you become fat. Perhaps the thing I can do is to give the same pleasure, with a good mouth full of pasta, but without making people fat. How I can make a pasta that will be ten percent pasta and ninety percent air? If you make a tube, you have ninety percent air, but when it’s cooked, it collapses.” That’s why I thought of a spring that makes the pasta stay open. And because American and French people always overcook pasta, I made two wings that have a double thickness, so that when you overcook it, eighty percent of the pasta is still al dente. I asked a doctor, “What is in pasta?” and he said, “It’s a perfectly well-balanced food.” “Well-balanced: yin-yang! Perfect, that can be the spring!” This shows you that even in something small, everything can be functional. If you just make a nice design, it’s nothing.”
The cross-section has a yin and yang look about it. Starck was obviously worried about maintaining the shape’s integrity when cooked and the pierced thickenings at opposite ends were probably meant to serve this purpose. Unlike the Marille, the rugosities are on the outside.
Alas, as far as I can tell, Mandala met with the same fate as Marille and try as I might, I can find no evidence that it is still in production. Furthermore, I have been unable to get any information from either Barilla or Panzani about these products. I even contacted the Museo Nazionale delle Paste Alimentari in Rome with no success. Pity because failures though they might have been, these two pasta shapes represented the work of great men in the world of design. Both my food-lover and design junkie sides grieve at having been deprived of these two interesting attempts at a “modern” pasta shape.