Week 1

History of Pasta

noodles flickr photo by brody4 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Since I am Italian, I thought the thing to start off my blog was an Italian dish. When most people think about Italy, they think of pasta. As I was researching the history of pasta, I came to learn that even though many pastas are made in Italy, there isn’t proof that it originated in Italy. The word pasta comes from the Italian word for “paste”. This “paste” is the mixture of flour, water, and eggs that form the dough has been around a lot longer in other countries besides Italy.

Noodles most likely originated in Asia thousands of years ago. There is evidence that shows that Chinese have been making noodles since 3000 B.C. There is not a clear answer as to how noodles got to Europe. Some people say that “nomadic Arabs” may have brought early kinds of noodles over. There have been rumors that Marco Polo brought noodles to Italy from a trip to China in the 13th century. This theory does not add up since there is documentation of parts of Italy already making noodles before the 13th century.

When it did reach Europe, the dough making process was changed to what is now used as the traditional Italian noodle, which is different than other kinds of noodles. The Europeans started using ground durum wheat, which thrives in the Italian climate, for the dough.

“Durum wheat’s high gluten content and low moisture give it a long shelf life. When durum wheat pasta is dried, it lasts indefinitely, making it a very convenient food to store.”

Once the dough is made, it is pressed into sheets, and then can be cut into a variety of different shapes. There are around 300 different shapes of dried pasta. Noodles made from durum wheat are called dry pasta, because it has a long shelf life. Fresh pasta, which is made with all-purpose flour and egg, doesn’t have a long shelf life.

Tomatoes and pasta didn’t meet until the 19th century. Even though sources say that tomatoes were brought back to Europe by the Spanish in the early 16th century, many Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous. It was a long time before people tried to eat them.  The first documented pasta recipe with tomatoes was in 1839. Since then, it became very popular in pasta dishes, especially Italy.

“The warm Mediterranean climate of Italy is suited to growing fresh vegetables and herbs, especially tomatoes. Tomato-based sauces emerged as a favorite complement to pasta, and tomatoes remain the most popular ingredient in pasta sauce today.”

Pasta came over to America in the late 19th century, most likely from Italian immigrants. It is cooked differently now; it was usually baked like an early form of lasagna, but the noodles are mostly boiled now. In American, people still make fresh pasta, but dried pasta is more popular for its convenience and long shelf life.

Some Fun Facts

-The modern word “macaroni” derives from the Sicilian term for kneading dough with energy, because the early noodle making process usually took all day.

-Thomas Jefferson served as the American Ambassador to France brought home the first “macaroni” making machine to America in 1789. He also later invented his own pasta machine.

-Before sauces, pasta usually was served dry with cheese. Cheese is one of the earliest documented condiments for pasta. We still have this practice of grating cheese over pasta

-King Ferdinand II hired an engineer in Naples who to create a machine to knead and cut the dough, which lead to commercial pasta making.


History of Pasta

Life in Italy

International Pasta

A Brief History of Pasta


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