Since most all of my recipes will be centered around “Italy” now through the Easter celebration, today, I would like to share a bit about pasta; its origin, uses and some of my fondest childhood memories surrounding them.
Nothing says Italy like its food, and nothing says Italian food like pasta. Wherever Italians immigrated they brought their pasta along, so much so today it can be considered a staple of international cuisine. Unlike other ubiquitous Italian products like pizza and tomato sauce, which have a fairly recent history, pasta may have a much older lineage, going back hundreds -if not thousands- of years. Unraveling the long and often complex history of this dish we have to look at its origins and some of the myths surrounding it.
It has been said that the Venetian merchant Marco Polo brought back pasta from his journeys to China. Some may have also been told that Polo’s was not a discovery, but rather a rediscovery of product once popular in Italy among the Etruscans and the Romans. Marco Polo might have done amazing things on his journeys, but bringing pasta to Italy was not one of them: noodles were already there in Polo’s time.
There is undeniable evidence of an Etrusco-Roman noodle made from the same durum wheat used to produce modern pasta: it was called “lagane” (origin of the modern word for lasagna). However this type of food, first mentioned in the 1st century AD, was not boiled, as it is usually done today, but oven baked. Ancient lagane had some similarities with modern pasta, but cannot be considered quite the same. The country will have to wait a few centuries for its most popular dish to make a further culinary leap forward. In my next historical post about pasta, we will delve further into the mysteries surrounding one of our most beloved Italian staple dishes. With some wonderful recipes embedded in between!