But when it comes to cooking spaghetti for young children or the elderly — or if a pot is simply too small — sometimes a shorter noodle just makes more sense, according to TODAY food stylist Tina DeGraff.
Yet trying to snap pasta in half often breaks it into multiple sharp fragments ... so what's a true pasta lover to do? Enter the carb-loving scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who have just discovered the best way to split spaghetti noodles evenly in half.
Believe it or not, physicists and mathematicians have actually been asking themselves "could spaghetti ever be coerced to break in two?" for many years, according to a statement from MIT.
To find the answer, researchers Ronald Heisser and Vishal Patil, "carried out experiments with hundreds of spaghetti sticks, bending and twisting them with an apparatus they built specifically for the task."
Yes, they really built a machine to bend spaghetti.
If a strand of spaghetti is simply bent in half, it will fracture into multiple pieces, the researchers initially confirmed. Then they started testing out different methods with their spaghetti-bending machine.
"[They] bent and twisted hundreds of spaghetti sticks, and recorded the entire fragmentation process with a camera, at up to a million frames per second," according to MIT.
Finally, they found a method to break it into two even pieces.
What's the trick? You need to bend and twist the dry noodles at the same time.
"In the end, they found that by first twisting the spaghetti at almost 360 degrees, then slowly bringing the two [ends] together to bend it, the stick snapped exactly in two," according to MIT's statement. "The findings were consistent across two types of spaghetti: Barilla No. 5 and Barilla No. 7, which have slightly different diameters."
Here's how to do it at home: Hold the spaghetti firmly with both hands and twist each end in opposite directions very forcefully while bringing the ends together. "But you have to twist really strongly," said Jörn Dunkel, associate professor of physical applied mathematics at MIT, who co-authored the study with Heisser and Patil.
"I never break spaghetti in half if I'm cooking it for myself, but if I'm cooking for someone else or have a small pot, this is my method, too," said DeGraff.
Dunkel noted that the method doesn't work as well with flatter pasta like linguine. "[It] is different because it's more like a ribbon," he said.
If this seems like a lot of work just to eat some noodles, note that the research team hopes their findings can be applied beyond the kitchen with other cylindrical, rod-shaped items that are used in fields like medicine and mechanical engineering.
"In any case, this has been a fun interdisciplinary project started and carried out by two brilliant and persistent students — who probably don't want to see, break, or eat spaghetti for a while," Dunkel said.