There’s a kind of pasta in the world that is so hard to find and so difficult to make that you’re going to have to travel to the tiny hamlet of Nuoro on the Italian island of Sardinia to get a taste. That’s because su filindeu, which translates to “the threads of God” or “God’s yarns,” is only made by three living women, descendants of a long line of women who for 300 years have passed down the family recipe. One of them, Paola Abraini, is 62 and wakes at 7am every day to make the pasta. The recipe isn’t secret, it’s hard—so hard that no one else seems able to make it: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver gave up after trying for two hours this summer; engineers from pasta giant Barilla couldn’t get a machine to replicate it.
Su filindeu consists of only three ingredients: durum wheat semolina, water, and salt. “Elasticity is fundamental,” explains the Slow Food Foundation, and this is achieved by patting the dough with salted or plain water. “The exact moment when this should be done cannot be exactly defined, it is a sensation that only who is kneading can recognize,” it explains. Sections of the dough are then stretched, using the fingers, eight times into angel-hair-like strands and layered on a flat basket called a fundu. The pasta is then sun-dried, and ultimately looks like “tree bark,” explain the Pasta Grannies. It’s prepared only one way: cooked in mutton stock with pecorino cheese added.