Pasta is great; it comes in a countless number of varieties, with flavor profiles, textures and shapes that span an impressive range.
One of the rarest forms of pasta in the world, however, may be one called su filindeu or, in English, "the threads of God."
For the past three centuries, only one family in Italy has known how to make the extremely time-consuming dish -- more specifically, only the women of one Sardinian family know how.
Per BBC, Paola Abraini’s niece and her sister-in-law live in Nuoro. For more than 300 years, the recipe and technique for su filindeu has been passed down strictly through the women in Abraini’s family, with each mother closely guarding the secrets of the pasta before passing the knowledge along to her daughters.
As it happens, imitation attempts have been made previously: Barilla, a hugely popular pasta manufacturer, actually visited Abraini’s home and tried to replicate her technique with machinery; the attempt was a failure.
Additionally, BBC reports that the president of Slow Food International also visited over the spring, as well as British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Oliver reportedly attempted to follow Abraini’s technique for two hours before throwing in the towel.
"Many people say that I have a secret I don’t want to reveal," Abraini told the BBC. "But the secret is right in front of you. It’s in my hands.
"There are only three ingredients: semolina wheat, water and salt. But since everything is done by hand, the most important ingredient is elbow grease.”
Su filindeu is made by using the tips of your fingers to pull and fold 256 even strands of semolina dough; then, you form the dough into an intricate three-layer pattern.
Intuition plays a big part in making sure the dough reaches the same consistency; and once the three layers of the dough are formed, Abraini takes the base outside to dry under the Sardinian sun, until they are hardened and resemble delicate stitched lace.
Isn’t it gorgeous?
Abraini loves the pasta, and wants the tradition of the dish to carry on.
"You know, for me it’s a blessing just to be able to make su filindeu. I’ve been in love with it since the first time I ever saw it, and I love it more each day,” she told BBC. "I hope to continue to make if for many years ahead -- but if one day I have to stop, at least I’ll have a video.”