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The Essential History of Pasta

When we think of pasta we often think of Italy. Italian homemade pasta is a dream food for many people. Pasta was brought to the United States with the waves of immigration that hit the country beginning in the late 1800's. Even so, the history of homemade pasta goes back thousands of years. There are conflicting reports as the to exact origins of this wonderful food. Some believe that the Chinese were the first to make pasta. While others believe it dates back to the ancient Romans.

Eating Pasta While Reclining Sketch

The ancient Romans made something called lagane, which was a very early kind of lasagna. The Ancient Romans put this pasta in an oven to bake. While we normally boil our homemade pasta, we still make lasagna in the ancient manner.

Boiled pasta that we've come to know and love comes from the Jerusalem Talmud in the fifth Century. It is also this same Arabic country that started the vending of dried noodles to consumers. They dried the noodles so that they could be stored for long periods, making it easier for people to buy and use them. Another earlier example of how the desire of a few to make money spurred innovation that benefited large numbers of people. Once people bought the noodles, they needed a way to make them taste fresh. The Arabs found that boiling them in water produced the desired effect.

Many Sicilian homemade pasta recipes still include the things the Arabs liked to put in their pasta dishes. For example, raisins and cinnamon were quite popular. Many of the dishes we commonly use today come from Sicily. One example is macaroni with eggplant. Of course, the majority of us eat our pasta with a sauce. This tradition likely came from the Italians, which is the nationality we traditionally associate pasta with.

In the 12th century, there was a factory that exported pasta to southern Italy. Sailors would carry the pasta from Sicily when they traveled to other areas. People all around the world came to love the pasta because it could stay fresh for so long and travels well.

There is a long-standing belief that Marco Polo was the one who brought pasta to Italy. The great traveller is credited with many such advancements that arose at the dawn of the Enlightenment. It is speculated that he is the one who discovered pasta in China and brought it to his home country. Even though some still subscribe to that notion, records we have found indicate that pasta was in the country before Marco Polo's time.

It is interesting to note that pasta was a luxury in the 13th century. Then, in the 14th century, pasta makers got better and better at their craft; so more were able to afford it. A very large pasta machine was invented, and pasta makers were finally able to mass-produce this delicious food.

Pasta shops began to pop up all around Italy; the food was so loved. It became much more affordable for the general public to purchase pasta, and it soon became a family staple. Though it was more affordable, there was still a class distinction involving pasta during this time. Those who were wealthy regularly ate fresh pasta with many wonderful sauces and fixings. The poorer population usually bought it off the street and ate it dry with their hands.

Spaghetti is probably the type of noodle that is most associated with pasta. Around the year 1700, long noodles were eaten with forks. A short while later, the poorer population of Italy discovered that tomatoes were inexpensive and produced a wonderful topping for the pasta. Prior to this time period, tomatoes were thought by many to be poisonous.

The Italians experimented with all shapes and sizes of pasta. Flat noodles, twirled noodles, thin noodles, short noodles and whatever the mind could concieve. People found that different shapes and thickesses of pasta produced varied efffects upon the palate.

In the late 1800's, Italians began coming to America and passed along their pasta making recipes. It is interesting to note, however, that Thomas Jefferson brought macaroni back with him from a trip to Italy. He even re-invented the pasta machine to make it easier to use! The Italian immigration to America is what helped pasta to become the staple in our diets it is today. There are many companies that mass-produce pasta and various pasta sauces. Still, many people find charm and delight in making homemade pasta.

Pasta has had a long history of being an easy to make, wonderful food. Though some disagree about parts of its origin, pasta was passed along easily. Almost every culture that was introduced to pasta immediately integrated it into their cuisine. Whether it is dry pasta from a grocery store or pasta made from scratch, it is a great food that offers a lot of flexibility and variety at mealtime.

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