Pasta has a wide variety of personalities all over the world. From spaetzel in Germany, to orzo in Greece, to rice and egg noodles in Asian cuisine, some variety of pasta exists in so many different cultures. But where did it all start?
When we think of the history of pasta, we think of Italian food. There’s a contradictory myth that Marco Polo brought the idea of noodles to Italy from China in the 13th century, but scholarly research has shown that pasta was already being made in Sicily before then. As for its introduction to America, early Spanish settlers were the ones to bring it over, but Thomas Jefferson was responsible for its boom in popularity. After enjoying a pasta dish in Paris in the late 1700s, he brought a bunch of it back, and continued to have more shipped over, to enjoy and serve to guests once he was elected President. In the 19th century, when a large wave of Italian immigrants came to America, pasta was solidified as a staple in American-Italian cuisine.
It is estimated that Italians eat over sixty pounds of pasta per person, per year easily beating Americans, who eat about twenty pounds per person. This love of pasta in Italy far outstrips the large durum wheat production of the country; therefore Italy must import most of the wheat it uses for pasta. Today pasta is everywhere and can be found in dried (pasta secca) and fresh (pasta fresca) varieties depending on what the recipes call for. The main problem with pasta today is the use of mass production to fill a huge worldwide demand. And while pasta is made everywhere, the product from Italy keeps to time-tested production methods that create a superior pasta.
Today, pasta is as popular as ever. In tiny sidewalk cafes to the fanciest of gourmet restaurants, you are sure to find a few pasta dishes on the menu. Whether you choose to thank the Italians for this delicious food or their eastern neighbors, we can all agree that our dinner tables wouldn’t be the same without this fabulous food.