“And on the 8th day, He created pasta and behold, it was very good.”
We all know that pasta is heaven-sent (duh!), but when did we mere mortals first learn to love it? Fear not, young ones. This is the history of pasta as we know it.
While many researchers credit the discovery of pasta to Marco Polo in the 13th century, pasta probably dates much further back, to the ancient Etruscan civilization, which made pasta by grinding several cereals and grains and then mixed them with water.
Thou shalt do as the Romans do…
Since the Etruscans were the forerunner to the Roman Empire, it doesn’t come much as a surprise that we also find references to pasta dishes in ancient Rome, which date back to around 300 B.C. In fact, the great Roman orator Cicero speaks about his passion for the “Laganum”, which are strips of long pasta (wheat-flour pasta shaped as wide and flat sheets).
Sometime in the 12th century, Platina, curator of the Vatican library, mentions that macaroni with cheese was a legacy from the kitchens of Genoa and Naples. In a book called “The Cooking Pan”, from the 13th century, it was determined that lasagna was eaten as pasta strips in enriched broths. The University of Bologna even possesses a 13th century codex which describes several lasagna-making procedures.
The ‘numero uno’
In 1740, in the city of Venice, Paolo Adami, was granted the license to open the world’s first pasta factory.
By the start of the 19th century, pasta dishes began to dominate the tables of the nobility. During this time, the consumption of dry pasta spread quickly among the whole of Italian society. Pasta consumption became a trendy thing and its offering to guests became a sign of distinction.
Beware the ‘forked one’
Even till the 19th century, pasta was always eaten by hand. The addition of sauces rendered that practice… impractical. Hence, an additional instrument started to show up at the tables of the high classes – the fork.
By 1914, methods like artificial drying increased pasta output many times over. By the turn of the century, as much as 70,000 tons of pasta was being exported (mainly to the U.S.), and pasta finally reached the big leagues.