Could anything be more Italian than a bowl of pasta? The country is famed for its food which comes in infinite shapes and forms, but, along with the pizza, pasta is the variation on this regional cuisine that has spread throughout the western world. Recipes such as spaghetti Bolognese and lasagna are global classics, with each chef having their own take and interpretation. But where did pasta come from and what are its origins?
There are references to fried sheets of dough called lagana in the 1st century BC, which some say could be an early form of pasta, but it was cooked in the oven, not boiled and can not truly be called pasta. Another well-established myth is that Marco Polo brought pasta back from China, but pasta already existed long before Polo made his journey to the Orient.
In truth, as with most traditional foods, the exact birth date of pasta will never be known, however most historians agree that the Arab invasions of Italy in the 7th century AD heavily influenced the cuisine of the region and is the most likely source of pasta into the Italian diet. By the 14th century it was popular throughout the country, due in part to its long shelf life which made it ideal for long ship voyages.
It was on these ship voyages throughout the following centuries that pasta spread around the world. Coupled with advancements in technology that meant making pasta was easier, its popularity grew immensely and truly became a part of Italian life.
Nowadays it’s estimated that an average Italian eats three times the amount of pasta each year as an average American. In fact it is so popular that Italy has to import most the durum wheat that is used to make it.