Truth About Pasta Everybody Should Know: Unleash the Secret of Who, When and How Pasta was Invented
Pasta is one of the most accessible food in the world. Nearly, every country in the world has its own unique version of this popular treat. When we talk about pasta, we generally refer to the traditional Italian noodles which differ from other types of noodles around the world. Worldwide, pasta has become synonymous with Italian cuisine. Yes, it is true that many famous dishes and recipes have originated from Italy, Surprisingly, pasta is not one of them.
One of the popular theories published in the “Macaroni Journal” by the association of food Industries claimed that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from his trip to China. The Chinese have been consuming noodles since 3000 BC and Marco Polo visited the country during the Yuan Dynasty (1271- 1368).
However, this theory was doubtful since the Chinese noodles weren't considered as pasta. Also, Marco Polo observed that the noodles resembled lagane, which was a noodle-like food. This proved that Marco Polo was quite familiar with the dish before he travelled to China. Hence, rather than discovering a dish, Polo had merely rediscovered a dish which was already popular in Italy. Marco Polo has achieved many things in his life but bringing pasta to Italy was not one of them since noodles already existed during his time.
Most Historians believe that Arabs are to be credited for bringing pasta to the Mediterranean basin. In 5th Century AD, when the Talmud was translated from Arabic, there is a reference to pasta being cooked by boiling. It is believed that Arabs were the ones who brought pasta to Italy when they captured Sicily in the 9th Century AD. This drastically influenced their regional cuisine. In the 12th Century, Arabs taught the Italians to dry their pasta and to preserve them during their travels.
An alternative theory suggested that pasta came to Italy from Greece on the basis of its origin of its name. The name can be traced back to the Latin word “Pasta” which translated to a dough pastry cake, which was further derived from the Greek word “pastros” meaning sprinkled with salt. However, this theory fell out of favour due to the lack of evidence.
Traditionally, pasta is made by mixing flour with either water or eggs. The dough is then shaped to a noodle-like structure by flattening it and cutting it. Pasta is made using the semolina flour which is made from the ground hearts of durum wheat. The amount of liquid that is required depends on the type of flour used and the desired texture.
However, the dough must be moist enough to hold its shape while being flattened. Some chefs prefer to add certain herbs such as garlic, basil and parsley in the dough. Even finely minced vegetables like spinach and tomato are added. These help in bringing the rich flavour of the pasta and give colour to the finished pasta. One must be careful when they knead the dough into a smooth ball. Over kneading the dough results in a tough pasta.
Many people are confused between noodles and pasta. Considering the similarities between the two, such as their similar taste, it is understandable why people get confused. Noodles are of Chinese origin and they are quite dense, hence they can be easily added to soups or casseroles without becoming a soggy mess. Noodle is the main ingredient in many dishes and they can be served with both hot and cold dishes.
Also, the flour that is used to make noodles are of a finer type that is made from mung beans, potatoes, wheat, acorn and rice. When it comes to pasta, they are made of semolina flour. Unlike noodles, every pasta shape has a distinct name which are used for specific types of meals. While cooking pasta, the main goal is to have a firm finished product, that holds the shape and gives the feeling of a crisp bite when eaten. Pasta can be served in a wide variety of sauces.
Pasta became quite famous in the 14th Century when it was introduced in the New World through the explorations of Italian and Spanish sailors. In the Old World, it continued to exist, with tubes of pasta being distributed in the 15th Century to Italian monasteries. By the 17th Century, it became a very common dish. In the New World, it became an exquisite dish, gracing the tables of Thomas Jefferson, the American Ambassador as well as other commoners. When Jefferson returned to France in 1789, he brought back the macaroni maker which delighted many people. In the mid-19th Century, macaroni and cheese were quite enjoyed during the Civil War due to its simplicity and easy storage.
Italian immigrants share the majority of the credit for bringing pasta to the American diet. Spaghetti, lasagna and many other forms of Pasta were spread by Italians. With the premade and dried macaroni and cheese easily available during World War II, it soon became a staple of the American diet for many decades after.
Pasta goes well with a huge variety of food items. Everything from bacon to steak can easily go along with the pasta. Anything can be a part of the pasta dish, all we need is a bit of imagination and creativity. Also, pasta is very healthy food. Contrary to what others believe, pasta contains very low calories and it is a heart beneficial dish. As per complex carbohydrates, it is digested very slowly and therefore it leads to a gradual and even production of blood sugar. For all those who wish to be on a diet, 200 grams of calorie and a gram of fat is perfect for them. Pasta is very easy to cook and it makes for a great presentation on the dining table. It is equally welcomed, both at home and at restaurants.
In the 12th Century, pasta entered North France via the Jews. Many people in France rely on pasta as a nourishing meal. Pasta is often served in many restaurants throughout France. The French are revered for their Tagliatelle, a long, thin, ribbon-like noodle pasta that is made of eggs. They are absolutely irresistible and add a rich flavour to the dish. Though Italians prominently feature herbs like basil and oregano, French cooks use their favourite herbs such as parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil. One of the ways the French have differentiated their pasta is by using their special French Cheeses. They mostly use the Comte or Emmental to give a different taste. They get all melty and oozy when tossed with hot pasta.
Usually many countries, especially America celebrates the National Pasta Day during October, to honour all the diverse pasta varieties that exist in many countries. America particularly celebrates it on October 25th. Since the day pasta made its way to American Cuisine via the Italian immigrants, its citizens have enjoyed pasta the same way the people of Southern Italy enjoy. Initially, pasta was only purchased by the upper class because they were very expensive. Later, when many pasta factories were developed, pasta became more affordable. Americans have added their own twist to pasta such as meatballs and SpongeBob shaped macaroni with orange powder. Since meat was expensive in Italy, they did not add meatballs to their dish like the Americans. Usually, the larger portions of spaghetti are served with a seasoning of garlic, oregano and hot pepper flakes.
Italians serve their pasta in three categories that are Pasta en brodo (pasta served with soup), pasta shuta (pasta served with a sauce or condiments), pasta al Forno( baked dish resembling lasagna). Each region of Italy has its own style of eating pasta, though the classical ones such as Puglia continues to remain special. Some of the popular pasta dishes in Italy include Rigatoni alla Carbonara, Fettucine Alfredo and Penne alla Bolognese. In Italy, pasta and tomato sauce go hand in hand. Before their introduction in pasta, the tomato was actually considered dangerous by the Europeans. It took a long time for them to accept tomato and introduce it with pasta. Pasta is considered the cornerstone of Italian food due to the high demand in this country. In fact, pasta is used so extensively in Italian food that Italy imports most of its wheat to keep up with the growing demand.
Penne pasta is the most common and popular kind of pasta that is enjoyed worldwide, apart from spaghetti, which is easily identifiable with its long yellow strands and can be combined with a variety of sauces, meats and vegetables. Penne pasta can be recognized as cylindrical shaped and it is most enjoyed with egg. Egg penne is quite popular along with tomato and spinach flavours. It is a very simple dish and is particularly great in pasta salads. Fusilli or the “corkscrew pasta” is identified by its thick long spirals that go great with many sauces, especially the meat sauces.
Fettuccine is a long pasta that is mostly served in Italian restaurants and can be easily prepared at home. It’s often paired with Alfredo sauce and chicken or with some kind of seafood. Thin sauces go along with this dish since its strands easily absorb the flavours. Cannelloni is a rare type of pasta which is recognized by its tube-like shape. It is usually rolled and stuffed with the ingredients of your choice. Mostly it is stuffed with tomato sauce and spinach. The Farfalle pasta is a funny pasta and it resembles a bow-tie. One can usually find this in many vegetable flavours in the grocery stores and it holds quite well with cream or tomato sauce.
Though we often associate pasta as having Italian roots, many variations of this dish can be seen in many countries around the globe. While the Americans and Italian consume the dish in a similar manner, other countries have turned to innovations and have come up with their own special kind of pasta. In Spain, fideos are a speciality. They are a perfect example of pasta being tasty and delicious. Fideos are thin, short noodles that are stirred with soup and served as a starchy base for baked seafood creations. Greek’s proximity to Italy has definitely influenced its pasta culture. One of the most common pasta dishes is the orzo, a rice-shaped pasta in Avgolemono, a Greek lemon chicken soup. Along with the Greek salad, this is one unique combination.
A history of Italian immigration has left Argentina as an Italian food hotspot. There are plenty of pasta shops in Bueno Aires, that rival those in Italy. Argentina has contributed to the pasta industry through its special dish, Sorrentinos. The dish is basically an overstuffed ravioli with cheese and pieces of meat. In Uruguay, the people traditionally eat Noquis every month. Noquis is literally a Spanish translation of the Italian Gnocchi. It is a tradition which has been adopted since the 10th Century. They are eaten both at the restaurants and home, and it's traditional to put a little money underneath the plate for good luck.
Pasta for all intents and purposes is certainly a comfort food. One of its most comforting qualities is how little it has changed over the years. Every time we eat pasta, we can be assured of the fact that our ancestors ate something similar. Pasta, with its multicultural history, is a culinary connection to our pasts. Whatever be the history or origin, pasta is here to stay.