Pasta: Where Did It Originate?
The myths and facts of pasta and its origin and how to make it.
After visiting the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty in 13th century China, Marco Polo returned to Italy with knowledge from the Far East. As a result, Marco Polo was credited with bringing the idea of modern pasta, which came from China’s noodles, to Italy and the rest of Europe; but this is only a chef’s myth. Since French writers from earlier times wrote about pasta and evidence suggesting that the Etruscans, the early habitants of northern Italy, were involved in the production of what resembles pasta; Marco Polo’s legend may not be so easy to believe.
Although the origin of pasta in Europe still remains a mystery, one thing for certain is that pasta is a term used for a wide variety of Italian noodles, and dishes in which the main ingredient is a pasta product. The word comes from the Italian phrase “paste alimentari” whichmeans nutritious or nourishment dough. Because pasta is the Italian word for dough and Italy has the largest selection of pasta dishes, the mistaken concept that pasta originated in Italy is often enforced. On the other hand, to recognize or even suggest another country instead of Italy could probably lead to another World War. Nevertheless, Italy comes to mind when the word pasta is mentioned and Italy is the king of pasta.
While Italians can vehemently claim that the word pasta is written in their DNA, almost anyone can make pasta by following an easy recipe. The simple blend of flour and water is what makes pasta. The flour needed to produce the dough used to make pasta, is commonly made from durum semolina, farina, or other kinds of hard wheat. White flour by itself is not recommended. In the mix, eggs, vegetable juices such as carrot juice or spinach juice, and herbs are sometimes added for coloring, flavor, and nourishment. The flour used to make pasta can have an impact on the nutritional values of the pasta, and pasta is considered healthy because it’s rich in complex carbohydrates, fibers, as well as vitamins and minerals.
A nutritious dish is a good reason to get right in to the kitchen and with such a wide variety of pasta shapes, the fun of making pasta is hard to deny. Over 350 different shapes of pasta is said to exist and spaghetti is probably the most popular form. Spaghetti falls in the long pasta category, (also known as strand pasta) as well as fusili lunghi bucati, similar to spaghetti but with a spiral appearance. This long pasta shape is usually served with light tomato sauce. Ribbon pasta is another category characterized by their flatness and this includes lasagne, fetucccine, and pappardelle. This is the class of pasta in which the popular lasagna dish belongs to but not all pasta shapes in this group is used for lasagna. The pasta that belongs to the tubular category is thick walled with a hollow center, and they are perfect for pasta salad, casseroles (a form of baked dish), and chunky sauces. Some of the pasta that falls in to this category are macaroni, manicotti, and reginelle. Since it is easy to shape pasta in to different forms, many are classified in to the shaped pasta category; such as, the bowtie farfalle, the screw fusilli, or the star-like stelline. Finally, the last category is the stuffed pasta in which agnolotti, tortelli, and the famous ravioli are members of. These are usually stuffed with meat and other ingredients in the inside.There are many other pasta shapes, and its numbers and variety has spanned plenty of pasta dishes that easily fill the morning, lunch, and dinner menu.