The history of pasta starts centuries ago, at the moment when man stopped living as a nomad and became a farmer, thus beginning his relationship with wheat.
The first mention of pasta is found in ancient Greece, during the 1st millenium B.C.. The word “λάγανον” (Laganon) is used to describe a large and thin sheet of dough cut in wide slices. During the roman times, Oratio and Ciceron speak of “laganae “, the precursor of lasagn
According to a legend, in 1292 Marco Polo brought spaghetti from China, something that was later debunked from Marco Polo’s own, earlier travel notes, where he said that he had tasted pasta, similar to those of his country, but cooked in a diferrent way… Some say that the Arabs introduced ”a food made of flour, in the form of strings”, with the arab name “itriyah”. So, the Sicelians where the first to cook pasta similar to those we cook today. Laganae was boiled and then fried and served on a plate, one on another and added between cheese or other ingredients, even raisins. . The innovation of that era (the Middle Ages) was the cooking process. Thy used to boil then completely plain and afterwards, upon serving, they added a broth. During the Middle Ages we also have the appearance of long pasta with a whole in the middle, as well as stuffed pasta. Pasta asciutta (dried pasta) is another kind of food that has been attributed to the Arabs. This is a long-life food that they could take with then during long travels in the desert. During the Middle Ages we also see the appearance of Botteghe (pasta shops), where the product was prepared and sold.
During the 11th century the first pasta producers (pastai) make their appearance. The Genovesi people traded pasta asciutta everywhere. But Emilia Romagna, Lombardia et Veneto insist on pasta fresca and still to our days, have kept this tradition.
In 1300 in Europe, people still eat with their hands (and will keep doing so until the 18th century), while in Italy, in the famous Liber de coquina (kitchen book) the readers are advised to eat lasagne with a pointy wooden instrumernt, that quickly tok the form of a fork. Between 1300 and 1400, recipes using specific types of pasta make their appearance, although the names of these products remain until 1700, slightly mixed. Most pasta types are named maccheroni.
In 1600, Giovanni del Turco advises the performance of a short boiling, leaving the pasta ”al dente” (hard, sticking on teeth). Serving pasta with cheese was very usual and the use of tomato sauce did not start until 1800. he first family businesses that produced pasta appear during the 16th century in Gragnano, where the extraordinary climat allowed for the ”macaroni” to be dried slowly. 30 watermills were built there, the ruins of which, one can still admire today in the valley of the mills (Valle dei mulini).
Gragnano becam famous back then and the pasta production reached a new pick! A train station was even built in that area, only in order to facilitate the export to the rest of Italy! King Umberto and queen Margherita of the house Savoia inaugurated the station. The fiscal crisis caused by two world wars brought Gragnano to its knees and the competition took over, but the tradition and fame stayed in Gragnano.
Through the years, pasta became a synonym for tradition and simplicity. Italians are know as pasta lovers. Sofia Loren stated in front of the whole world, that her curves where the result of pasta. The words spaghetti and maccheroni defined languages, eras, art, litterature and cinema and so many more aspects of our lives…
After all these years, one thing is for sure: the sight or even thought of a plate full of tasty pasta can make anyone, young or old, drool with desire!