Episode 6: Down with Pasta! Italian Futurist Cuisine of the 1930s

A rare photo from the inside of the Futurist Taverna Santaopalato, circa 1930

A rare photo from the inside of the Futurist Taverna Santaopalato, circa 1930

Can you imagine Italian food without pasta? This week, we journey back to the 1920s & 1930s when an artistic movement declared war on noodles, one of the most beloved Italian culinary traditions. Find out how the golden age of the airplane inspired an entirely new way of thinking about eating; when restaurants resembled aircraft hangers, chicken tasted of steel, and your dinner soundtrack was an airplane engine! 

Written & Produced by Laura Carlson

Resident PunMaster & Technical Direction by Mike Portt


Cooking with Marinetti: Futurist "Formulas"

Futurist leader Filippo Tomasso Marinetti didn't call his culinary creations "recipes", but formulas, designed to imitate the technological breakthroughs of his day. Below are a few classic Futurist formulas that you can recreate in your own home. For more Futurist recipes, see more information on The Futurist Cookbook below.

Steel Chicken

(formula by the Futurist Aeropainter & Architect Diulgheroff) 

Roast a chicken, emptied of its insides. As soon as it is cold, make an opening in the back and fill the inside with red zabaglione (an Italian custard made from egg yolks, cream, and sugar), on which are laid 200 grams of steel ball bearings. Attach cockscombs all round the opening.


(formula by the Futurist Aeropainter Fillia)

 Boiled white rice is arranged like this: one part in the middle of the plate in the form of a hemisphere, another part around the hemisphere in the form of a crown. The moment it is brought to the table pour over the hemisphere a sauce of hot white wine thickened with cornflour and over the crown a sauce of hot beer, egg yolk, and Parmesan cheese.

The Excited Pig

(formula by the Futurist Aeropainter Fillia)

A whole salami, skinned, is served upright on a dish containing some very hot black coffee mixed with a good deal of eau de Cologne (an Italian liqueur, made from fruit and spices).


Additional Resources on Futurist Cooking

Watch Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine, talk about technology-driven cuisine:

Nathan Myhrvold, "Cooking As Never Seen Before" Ted Talks, March 2011

The Golden Age of the Air

Tired of cramped seats? No overhead bin space? The end of in-flight free food? Journey back to the luxurious days of early air travel with these great early movies, including clips used on this week's episode from Pan Am Airlines' film production "Flying the Lindbergh Trail" (1937)



Find out more about Futurism & the Birth of Modernist Cuisine

The Futurist Cookbook

by Flippo Marinetti, translated by Suzanne Brill

The must-have collection for any aspiring Futurist chef. This collection of Futurist articles, essays, and recipes provides a thorough overview of the development of Futurist cuisine in Italy in the 1920s and 1930s. 


Modernist Cuisine at Home

by Nathan Myhrvold & Maxime Bilet (2012)

Perhaps the 21st century successor to Futurist cuisine? This book, designed to help home chefs recreate modernist dishes, is an encyclopedia of all the latest food technologies and processes. 


The Food Lab

by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (2015)

Award-winning cookbook that blends the art of cooking with science. Another Futurist successor? The book breaks down how to achieve perfect results in the kitchen using tried and tested scientific methods.