World's rarest pasta in danger of dying out

The elected religious mayor is known as the Priore, in this remote and wild corner of Sardinia.

He and his small team of devotees are making final preparations for the bi-annual Feast of San Francesco, when I meet him, just outside the small mountain town of Lula.

Scores of pilgrims walk through the night to get here; as they enter the town they’re greeted with a warming bowl of sacred soup - a tradition that dates back three centuries.

But now, in the 21st century, it is in very real danger of dying out.

Because the secret of this dish is its extraordinary and unique pasta - which is fiendishly difficult to make.

I have come to meet Paola, one of only a handful of people in the world who still knows how to create its magic.

The simple pasta dough is worked by hand - stretched, and stretched again to form 256 gossamer-fine strands, laid flat and layered over each other to create a fine mesh, like linen, which is then dried in the sun.

This is the pasta known as ‘Su filindeu’ - the threads of God.

Paola tells me the secret of this pasta is the passionate dedication she's been putting in for 40 years.

If her family will maintain that passion once she’s gone, is uncertain.

Her daughters are not keen to pursue it. So far, only her four-year-old grandson has shown any interest in mastering the hugely complicated process involved in its creation.

The pasta is not just a dish - it's part of traditional ritual. Credit: On Assignment

The su filindeu is added to a hearty mutton broth which is synonymous with the festival of San Francesco.

The relationship between the festival and the su filindeu pasta is symbiotic - the pasta isn’t just an incidental ingredient.

As the Priore told me: 'it is impossible to think about one without the other.'

Credit: On Assignment

The wheat itself is imbued with spiritual significance - but also a hefty ladle of superstition.

I was warned that if I left without trying the pasta, some terrible bad luck would befall me.

Apparently one poor woman drove her car into a ravine when she went home without accepting a bowl of the sacred soup.

There's a beauty and respect given to the simplest of things in Sardinia.

Meeting Paola and seeing how much people revere her pasta - which is really more accurately described as an art - is a moving testimony to the power of tradition and the artisanal skill of Sardinian cuisine.

Sad to realise it may well die out with the passing of this generation.

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