A Brief History of Pasta

A Brief History of Pasta

As the cold season continues to roll in, we wanted to highlight a favorite comfort food that has spanned internationally for hundreds of years: Pasta.

If you somehow have not ever heard of this decadent entree, ”pasta" is Italian for paste, referring to the combination of flour and water that form over 600 different edible shapes worldwide and is usually eaten with different types of sauces or tossed with oil, herbs and spices (the exception being layered flat sheets like lasagna, which is baked and tubes and pillows which are stuffed).

It is a matter of much controversy with regards to the origin of this well-loved comfort food. One theory is that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy on his return from travels in China. This theory is however rejected by nationalistic Italians who claim that Marco Polo returned in 1295 but in 1279, a Genoese soldier listed in the inventory of his estate a basket of dried pasta. Another theory is that the origin of pasta dates back to an archeological find of Etruscan tombs. Carvings on some of the stucco reliefs in the tombs depicted a knife, board, flour sack and an iron pin which was interpreted that these instruments were used to make pasta.

In Naples, commercial pasta making took off when King Ferdinand II hired an engineer who devised a system of using a machine to knead and cut the dough. Naples soon became Italy's center of pasta. Macaroni and cheese was a popular dish in America during the Civil War, but it wasn't until the large scale Italian migration to America that pasta as we know it today became widespread.  The history of ravioli may be the most interesting of the bunch. The earliest records of ravioli appear in the preserved letters of Francesco di Marco in the 14th century. The city of Cremona claims to have created ravioli, but Genoa insists that the word ravioli comes from their dialect word for pasta, rabiole, which means "something of little value" and referred to the practice of poor sailors who suffered leftovers into pasta to be eaten for another meal.

So the heated debate continues down the ages paralleling pasta's continued development. Regardless, though, as to who did what and when, more importantly the world now enjoys pasta, and it has evolved without a doubt through the creativity and inventiveness of many including Italians who have embraced it as their own with the creation of shapes, sauces and processes.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning A Brief History of Pasta! What is your favorite type of the famous Italian export? Join the conversation below!