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The History of Pasta



Pasta has gradually turned into a culinary delight and is known for its long history. Here, our aim will be to explore the glorious history of pasta. According to popular legend, in the 14th century, Marco Polo, the great traveler discovered pasta while traveling in China. A food like noodle already existed in China from 3,000 B.C.


Apart from that, there are references to food similar to pasta that date back to the 1st century AD. For instance, a well-known Roman poet named Horace mentions “lagana”, which referred to fried dough in the form of fine sheets. Similarly, Athenaeus of Naucratis, a Greek rhetorician has given a lagana recipe, consisting of dough sheets made using flour of wheat and crushed lettuce juice. Lagana was flavored using spices and finally fried in sunflower or olive oil.


If we look at the history, cookbook from 5th century also mentions a dish named lagana, which comprised of dough layers consisting of meat stuffing and can be considered an ancestor of present day lasagna.



Lexical Milestones

Many lexical milestones have been mentioned by historians related to pasta, let us go through the details here.


  • In the works of Galen, a Greek physician of 2nd Century AD we find a mention of itrion, which was a consistent compound that consisted of water and flour.

  • Itrium is mentioned in Jerusalem Talmud, which was a boiled dough and was quite common food from 3rd to 5thcentury AD in Palestine.

  • Muhammad al-Idrisi compiled geographical text for Roger II (King of Sicily) in 1154, where Itriyya (a type of food made using semolina flour and it was dried before being cooked) is mentioned and Norman Sicily is the place from where it was manufactured as well as exported.


Many believe that North African counterpart of pasta may have originated in Sicily and at that time it was known in Sicily as couscous. It consisted of steamed semolina dough and was served along with vegetables or meat stew and had a sprinkle of sugar, cinnamon, or almonds ov



Development of Strong Presence in Italy

As per food historians, pasta became popular in Italy in the Middle ages due to frequent Mediterranean trading. We can see reference to many pasta dishes cropping up with greater frequency from 13th century in the Italian peninsula.


Right from the Middle Ages and up to the inception of 16th century, pasta recipes were quite different from what we know today. For instance, at that time, pasta was combined with spicy and sweet flavors as well as cooked for more time. By 17th century, Italy and specially Naples had become pasta production as well as consumption hub in Europe. The increasing popularity and spread of pasta as a delicious food was facilitated by industrial production of pasta.


By 1900s, growth of artificial extrusion and drying procedures resulted in development of a large variety of preparations of pasta and higher number of exports, resulting in further growth of pasta production and its consumption.



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