When you mention Pasta then people automatically think of Italy, however nearly every country has its own version of one of the world’s most accessible foods. Pasta has always been an inexpensive way of putting food onto the table, but in Italy they certainly take their pasta seriously. Unlike American and UK versions of pasta the Italians prefer to make the pasta the star of the show and not the sauce that is served with it. Greece call their pasta orzo, and in Hungary and Germany you can find spaetzle. However, it is a misconception that pasta originated in Italy. In fact, it is an ancient food that dates back millennium and it is hard to credit who actually invented pasta first. Food historians have tried to find a definitive answer to this question but as of yet nobody can provide a true solution.
Taste the Paste
Pasta roughly translates into English as paste, and this is a rough reference to the substance formed out of flour, eggs and water. As you can imagine these basic ingredients have been around for thousands of years all over the world. So, trying to differentiate Italian pasta from any other similar dish made from the trio of ingredients is hard.
Pasta is widely accepted in Italy simply as noodles, but the term pasta sets it aside from other countries that also have noodle dishes. It is generally thought that pasta was introduced to Italy by Marco Polo from his exploits in China. And it was a fact that around the 13th Century that the Chinese were making noodles out of a flour made either from the breadfruit tree or actually barley.
Central Asian Noodles
Before Marco Polo’s travels it is definite that noodles existed in China hundreds of years before. But experts believe that the originators of noodle type dishes were the peoples who inhabited Central Asia. And it was these nomadic people that introduced pasta to China. Then from Asia and the East the humble pasta migrated west to mainland Europe and that is where it was developed into a food made out of wheat. It was found that using durum wheat the foodstuff could be dried out and re-hydrated in the winter months.
This new pasta eventually found its way to the Mediterranean and because of its long shelf-life became a staple dish in Southern Italy. The warm climate already was helping to produce vegetables such as tomatoes and onions plus aromatic herbs like oregano. And as we know today these ingredients are the foundation of many Italian pasta sauces. Tomato based sauces are a particular favorite, and their thick consistency makes them perfect for sticking to the pasta. Today Italian pasta is famed all over the world, and as time has gone by the cooks and chefs of Italy have designed many different shapes and textures to their pasta. Some of the most popular are Lasagne, Spaghetti, Tagliatelle, Macaroni, Rigatoni, Penne, Ravioli and Tortellini. Perhaps the next time you enjoy a bowl of delicious pasta consider the long journey the humble noodle has made to reach your fork and spoon.