Monday, December 14, 2015


If you have been thinking that pasta started out in Italy, you are WRONG!  Of course, nobody knows, absolutely for sure, who invented noodles, but it wasn't the Italians.  Pasta might have come from Arabia, or maybe the Mediterranean area.  But the only ancient noodles that have ever been found were in China.

The ancient Chinese noodles which, in my opinion, look sort of like worms.

This discovery was made by archeologists in 2005 at the Lajia site in the People's Republic of China. They found an overturned, sealed earthenware bowl under 10 feet of sediment.  The bowl contained noodles made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet.  Probably, these noodles date back about 4000 years, to the late neolithic period.

Long types of pasta

The first time noodles were mentioned in writing was in a book dating back to the Eastern Han period (25-220 CE).  Noodles were usually made from wheat, and they were a staple food for people in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE--220 CE).  During the Tang Dynasty people started cutting noodles into strips, and dried noodles were first made during the Yuan Dynasty.

Pasta specialty store, Venice.
Wikipedia; uploaded by Arria Belli

Meanwhile, in the 1st century CE, the Roman writer Horace talked about lagana, which were fine sheets of fried dough.  A 5th-century cookbook described layering sheets of dough with meat, but the way this dish was cooked was not really the same as our present-day lasagna.

The Jerusalem Talmud talks about itrium, a kind of boiled dough, that was common in Palestine from the 3rd to the 5th centuries CE.  It is also thought that the Arabs introduced pasta to Sicily in the 9th century.  Traces of pasta have been found in ancient Greece, as well.  In mythology, the Greeks believed that the god Hephaestus invented a device that made strings of dough.

Making pasta by hand

A legend says that Marco Polo brought noodles from China to Italy.  This might be true, since he did describe a food similar to lagana.  However, at least one historian thinks the story about Marco Polo was invented in the 1920s or 30s for use in a Canadian spaghetti advertisement.

Fresh pasta

The first concrete information about Italian pasta products dates from the 13th or 14th century.  Originally, pasta was eaten plain, with the fingers, because only rich people could afford eating utensils.  No one thought of using a sauce to flavor the pasta until the late 18th century.

At first, pasta was just eaten in small amounts, as sort of a side dish.  But nowadays it is served in much larger portions as part of sophisticated dishes.  Pasta is both inexpensive and easy to cook, and these facts have helped make it a popular food.  Another advantage is that pasta can be dried, and it will keep for long periods of time.

Originally, people had to make pasta by hand by rolling the unleavened dough flat and cutting it into strips or some other shape.  But as early as the 1600s, pasta manufacturing machines were being invented across the coast of Sanremo.  The machine made more uniform pieces of pasta by extruding the dough out through little holes.

Small pasta extruder for home use

There are now at least 310 specific forms of pasta known by more than 1300 different names.  In Italy, the name for a type of pasta might vary with the region of the country.  For instance, cavatelli is known by 28 different names.  The most common forms of pasta include long shapes, short shapes, tubes, flat shapes, miniature soup shapes, filled or stuffed, and specialty or decorative shapes.

In my humble opinion as a dog, I don't care what shape my pasta is.  To me, the important part is the sauce, and the more meat that's in it, the better.  Unfortunately, Mom does not let us dogs eat pasta dishes, but if she did, I would eat beef stroganoff or spaghetti and meatballs every single day!

Beef stroganoff!  Yum!

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