American Exchange Students Started a Fire in Italy by Cooking Pasta Without Water

Somebody didn't pay attention in Home Ec class.

American students start pasta fire
Photo: Image Source/Getty Images

Originally published on March 22th, 2018.

Consider this a public service announcement, as well as a lesson in cooking 101: to cook pasta, boil water first.

Three American students living abroad in Florence, Italy, learned this the hard way this week when they started a fire in their apartment by cooking pasta without the most basic of ingredients.

According to Italian newspaper La Nazione, the 20-year-old students brought home pasta from the supermarket, put the dry noodles straight into a pot without any water, and lit the stove. Instead of getting a delicious pasta dinner for three, the pot quickly burst into flames and caused a fire. The group called upon local firefighters who promptly extinguished the fire — perhaps with water? — and apart from some damaged “kitchen furniture,” it appears that no one was harmed.

The girls told the police on the scene that they earnestly did not know water was needed to cook pasta. Of course this begs the question: Had no one in the group ever made pasta or seen anyone else — on TV, in a movie, at home — make pasta? Perhaps they had trouble understanding the cooking instructions in Italian? Or perhaps they had heard somewhere that you could sear pasta until it’s cooked?

Not surprisingly, Italian commenters on the story left some pretty snarky remarks.

“Return to the USA to eat hamburgers & chips from [McDonald’s],” wrote one commenter on Il Giornale.

Another sought to find a logical reason for the students’ absurd cooking fail: “It derives from the fact that in the USA everything is bought already COOKED, American women in the kitchen are a disaster, they do not even know how to make a hard egg.”

One even warned others not to be “too ironic” in their comments, as “from one of those three could come the next US Secretary of State ... or the next president!”

But this story does have a happy ending. Upon hearing about the plight of the Americans and their difficulty with navigating a boiling pot of water, famed Florentine chef Fabio Picchi of the restaurant Cibréo offered them a free four-hour Italian cooking class. After learning some basics in the kitchen, the girls have been invited to have lunch together with the chefs at the restaurant.

When asked why he was so eager to help the exchange students (clearly in dire need of some direction in the kitchen), he told La Nazione: “I feel guilty, I feel there was a strong communication deficit on the part of this city.” By teaching them the basics of Italian cooking, the chef says, “I think this can be useful to them, but also to us. Understanding is always — with simplicity and cognition — what is beautiful and necessary."

No word yet whether the students have accepted Chef Picchi’s invitation, but it certainly seems that it would be a most beneficial learning experience for them.

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