It may be one of our favourite dishes in the UK and you may even eat it every day…. but whether your true love is spaghetti bolognese or carbonara, what exactly is the history of Italy’s most iconic staple food?
Despite being beloved across the world, the origins of pasta are difficult to trace. This is made even harder by the fact that almost every country in the world has its own special version of this staple food. For example, the Polish enjoy pierogi, Hungarians have spaetzle and the Greeks have orzo. So, although pasta is most commonly associated with the Italians, it is very hard to say whether it originated from Italy or not.
The word for pasta actually means ‘paste’ in Italian, which refers to the flour, egg and water combination that makes the dough. The term is traditionally used for Italian noodles and made from ground durum wheat dough, mixed either alone with water or with the addition of eggs.
Durum wheat is important, because it has a low moisture content and high gluten, which makes for perfect compressed and flexible sheets. You can enjoy them in the most authentic dishes at an Italian restaurant in Dublin, such as https://www.forno500.ie/.
It is actually very likely that what we know as pasta today evolved from early Asian noodles. Once early noodles reached the Mediterranean countries, the addition of durum wheat came about and the process was perfected. Pasta was enthusiastically adopted into Italian culture because it lasted well, was versatile and highly affordable. It also worked very well with locally grown herbs, tomatoes and other fresh vegetables, which combined perfectly to make delicious dishes.
Pasta also made its way to America via Spanish settlers in the eighteenth century. It was Thomas Jefferson who made it popular by developing a love of macaroni in Paris and then taking cases of it home with him! Italian immigrants from Naples then made the dish mainstream in the nineteenth century, and restaurants brought it to the people in vast amounts.
Today, we cook pasta by boiling dough, and dried pasta tends to be imported directly from Italy and made from either durum wheat or semolina. Fresh pasta is also highly popular, especially in Europe, where it can be combined with all sorts of wonderful fillings and flavours.