This is Su filindeu (thread of gods), a pasta so difficult to prepare that only three women of a single Sardinian family know how to make it
The ingredients are simple: semolina wheat, water, and salt. The serving preparation is similarly uncomplicated: gamey mutton broth and a helping of tangy pecorino cheese. Making the pasta, however, is nearly impossible. Engineers from the Barilla pasta company attempted, unsuccessfully, to build a machine that could reproduce the technique. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver also visited Sardinia in hopes of mastering the elusive noodle. After two hours, he gave up.
Paola Abraini, one of the masters of su filindeu, says the hardest part is “understanding the dough with your hands.” She kneads the mixture until it feels like modeling clay, then continues working it into rounded strands. When the semolina lacks elasticity, she dips her fingers in a bowl of salt water. When it needs moisture, unsalted water does the trick. The balance, says Abraini, “can take years to understand.” When the consistency reaches perfection, Abraini stretches the dough, doubling it again and again. After eight rounds of layering, she’s left with 256 delicate strands resting in her hands. She gingerly stretches the fine threads over a circular, wooden frame, crisscrossing three layers of noodles over one another. Then, leaving su filindeu to dry in the sun, Abraini makes some more of the strands that almost no one else can.