The History of Pasta

Cafe Milano

Pasta! It is of the most popular foods on the planet, you can find pasta pretty much everywhere you go. Typically, pasta is associated with italy - the dish is such a big part of Italian culture, where it is consumed by most people everyday. Walk into any Italian restaurant and you will likely find a large variety of pasta dishes on their menu.

But did you know that pasta was not originally from Italy? It’s something you never would have guessed, but the roots of this dish have been long debated to have originated from many corners of the world. Today we will explore the history of the much loved dish, pasta!

Though we don’t exactly know where pasta was first made, what we do know is that the word ‘pasta’ is Italian. Pasta means ‘paste’ in Italian, which refers to pasty texture of pasta dough when it is first mixed. Made from a combination of flour and water or eggs, the ingredients are mixed together and kneaded, rolled out, and moulded into many different shapes and sizes. These simple ingredients have been around for centuries, making it almost impossible to know who came up with the dish first.

There are hundreds of forms that pasta takes when the dough shaped, and the names of different pastas are based on these shapes. The dough can be rolled out into large sheets to make lasagna, shaped into tubes to make cannelloni, filled with stuffing to make ravioli, cut into bows, twisted into spirals, or pulled into long strings. One of the most popular variations, ‘spaghetti’ takes its name from the Italian word meaning ‘little cords’.

So how did pasta become such a staple in the Italian diet? One of the most common theories is that it was brought to Italy in the 13th century by Marco Polo after he travelled to China. He wrote in his book ‘The Travels’ that the Chinese would use flour from a tree to produce dishes similar to pasta. However, while Marco Polo explored China, pasta was already becoming a popular dish across Italy! Though this theory has been disputed by many, it is widely agreed upon that the first noodles produced likely originated in central China. Some say that nomadic Arabs were the ones who brought early forms of pasta to Italy where the dish was refined and altered to pasta as we know it today.

Aside from being delicious, the affordability, shelf life and versatility of pasta are all factors which rooted the dish firmly in Italian culture. Italy’s Mediterranean climate, where fresh vegetables and herbs thrive, allowed for Italians to experiment and create some of the most popular sauces to complement pasta dishes we still eat today, such as tomato sauce!

Another interesting fact about it is that dried pasta was eaten by European voyagers aboard ships when they explored the world between the 14th - 18th century. Europeans travelling around the world marked the beginning of globalization, of cultures connecting, and they were able to do this all because they were sustained by pasta! So, you knew that pasta takes many different shapes - but now you know how powerful pasta was in shaping the history of the world!

Take your friends to Cafe Milano, located in [email protected], to try the range of pasta dishes and tell them what you learned about pasta’s interesting history! No doubt they will be surprised that pasta isn’t originally from Italy, but they will definitely enjoy all the classic sauces perfected by Italians when pasta was brought there long ago!