While many people think of Italian cuisine when thinking of pasta, the origins of this delightful food can actually be traced in… ancient Asia. And nobody has ever been able to tell who exactly invented it. Or where exactly. Or when exactly.
Pasta in Italy – From the noodle to the fresh and dried
While yes, pasta is a staple food in Italian cooking today, and there’s not a single Italian immigrant who has not introduced it to local communities around the world in a variety of ways, it is sure to say pasta was not invented in Italy.
Another thing sure-to-say is that no, Marco Polo did not introduce pasta to Italians.
A lot of the information circulating online is misleading, including the presence of pasta in Italy. Pasta existed in Italy long before Marco Polo began his explorations into China.
The Etruscans and the Romans ate a type of pasta called “lagane,” which was more of a noodle, but still made from the same ingredient that is used to make pasta today: wheat durum. The difference between this noodle and modern pasta is that the first was not boiled. It was baked in the oven.
Dried pasta became extremely popular with the Italians around the 1400s, but it was only in the nineteenth century that people integrated it as a quintessential element in Italian cooking. That happened when tomatoes were introduced to pasta. And the rest is history…
Where pasta really originates. Or does it?
No one seems to be able to tell for sure where exactly or when pasta originates. There are many theories regarding the origin of it, but it is generally accepted that modern pasta comes from ancient Asia.
According to archeologists, people in central Asia were producing noodles thousands of years ago. There is strong evidence to suggest this. In 2005, archaeologists found millet noodles 4000-years old in China, which not only proves where noodles originate but since noodles are the first type of pasta known to man, also where pasta comes from.
Southeast Asians learned about noodles from the Chinese, but the food has been consumed across the continent in so many other parts. Indians have this desert called Seviyan Kheer, which is a sweet pudding made with milk and vermicelli.
In Sri Lanka, people make flattened cakes called Idiyappam or string hoppers using rice flour which is cooked for a short amount of time in boiling water. Idiyappam is widely consumed as breakfast food all throughout South India.
From China, pasta may have reached Europe with the nomadic Arabs, although there are uncertainties and theories regarding this too. What is known for sure is that durum wheat pasta was first produced in the Mediterranean when people discovered that durum wheat makes it last indefinitely.
America discovered pasta when the early Spanish settlers brought it into the country. US President Jefferson was so impressed with the macaroni he ate in Paris that he brought two cases back home and every time he ran out of pasta, he would send for more. The food has found its place in American cuisine ever since.