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American Exchange Students in Italy Start Fire by Cooking Pasta Without Water

There are cooking failures, and then there are cooking failures so bad that you piss off the entire country of Italy.

Jelisa Castrodale

Photo via Flickr user Martin Gautron

On its website, Allstate Insurance has compiled a list of fire safety tips for college students and, unsurprisingly, that includes some suggestions on how not to burn the dorm to the ground while they’re making dinner. Allstate recommends that students stay in the kitchen when they’re cooking, that they ensure that their cookware is microwave-safe, and that they don’t put oven mitts on the burner beside whatever’s cooking. The company didn’t think to mention, “Add water when you make spaghetti, because otherwise, you could incinerate your kitchen,” probably because they assumed that no one was that stupid. But three American students studying in Italy basically said, “Hold my birra.”

According to Italian newspaper La Nazione, three 20-year-olds bought some pasta and took it back to their apartment in Florence, with high hopes for an authentic Italian dinner. But instead of boiling several quarts of water before adding the pasta—you know, step one on every set of back-of-the-box instructions ever—they emptied the dry noodles directly into the pot. (Sigh...)

Because spaghetti isn’t meant to be seared, it caught on fire immediately. And because people who don’t understand how to fix pasta also don’t know what to do with stovetop flames, the students had to call the fire department.

Unsurprisingly, Italians have responded to the incident with a combination of embarrassment for the students and smug superiority. “Return to the USA to eat hamburgers & chips from [McDonald’s],” one commenter wrote. “[F]rom one of those three could come the next US Secretary of State...or the next president!” another warned. (Oh Italy, do you really want to compare elected officials?)

The correct way to make spaghetti... in water. Photo via Flickr user Vassilis

Florentine chef Fabio Picchi was more charitable in his assessment, offering the girls four hours of Italian cooking lessons in one of his restaurants. “They will have lunch in our restaurant with two of my extraordinary cooks,” he said. “They will teach them the simple basics that are very good if done well. I think this can be useful to them, but also to us. Understanding is what is beautiful and necessary.”

Maybe those three students can become pen pals with John Silva and Derrick Irving, who were arrested last week for allegedly using a jar of spaghetti sauce to try to start a fire in their ex-boyfriend’s house. The two Florida men are accused of entering the victim’s home, emptying a jar of Ragu into a pot, then placing a washcloth on the stove right beside it. (Guys, did you even read Allstate’s blog?) The unnamed victim noticed motion on his security camera and called the cops, who were able to extinguish the smoldering washcloth before it fully ignited.

“He was trying to make it look like I left the stove on but who gets up 2 AM and fixes sketti?" the victim asked WKMG, adding “Maybe he’s angry because I gave him $150 to fix his teeth.”

Allstate’s final suggestion is “Speak up if you see a fire hazard.” If you see any of these people going into the kitchen with a box of Barilla, just go ahead and call the authorities.


CORRECTION: Due to an error in translation, a previous version of this article erroneously stated that the firefighters comforted the students by claiming that they didn't know how to make pasta, either. This was not the case and we regret the error.