Do you know where pasta came from? Spoiler: not Italy


Enter cascatelli—which implies “waterfall” in Italian—the world’s latest pasta form. Pashman developed the shape to carry lots of sauce and be simply stabbed with a fork. To me, a food historian and former bistro chef, it appears just like the love little one of two lesser-known pastas, creste di galle and mafaldine.

Whereas the historical past of this new form has been closely documented, together with in a five-part podcast, the story behind how pasta obtained its form is a bit murkier.

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Cascatelli means “waterfall” in Italian, therefore its form. [Photo: Filibustre/Wiki Commons]

The noodle is born

Pasta is likely one of the oldest processed meals, relationship again a number of thousand years to round 1100 BC. For comparability, bread dates back to around 8000 BC.


Triticum, or durum, wheat wanted to make a sturdy dry pasta is Middle Eastern in origin, so it’s doubtless that Arabs and others within the Center East have been producing and consuming the earliest trendy types of dry pasta—as little balls like acini de pepe and couscous—earlier than they turned frequent in Italy.

These tiny types of pasta stored nicely in scorching climates and may very well be cooked utilizing little or no gas, which was scarce in Arab dominions. Since they have been dehydrated and durable, they have been a perfect meals for folks touring throughout the Center East and northern Africa.

The earliest pasta form was a easy sheet, which was handled extra like bread dough. It in all probability didn’t have the toothsome high quality (generally known as “al dente”) related to Italian pasta at present, and would have been much like unleavened matzo bread with sauce on it. The first mention of boiled pasta wasn’t till the fifth century AD, within the Jerusalem Talmud.

A lot of the earliest types of pasta that we contemplate to be the core of the Italian repertoire—equivalent to vermicelli and spaghetti—were probably first developed by Arabs and didn’t seem in Italy till the ninth or tenth centuries. These noodles turned widespread as soon as durum wheat had established itself in Sicily and regional meals makers discovered to work with the semolina flour it produced.

Italy and an explosion of shapes

Spaghetti, which implies little strings, was easy to make and dry within the climates of Southern Italy.

In Italy, these skinny noodles have been initially reduce from sheets utilizing knives or wire cutters. Virtually all of the earliest shapes have been in all probability fashioned by hand, which was a tedious course of, so folks labored on making their manufacturing extra environment friendly as pasta gained significance of their diets.


What actually sparked the explosion of pasta shapes was the invention of the extrusion press. Variations of an extruder had been experimented with because the 1300s, but it surely took the revolution in mechanics of the Renaissance to permit the machines to rapidly mass-produce pasta, together with shapes like elbow macaroni, rigatoni, and tagliatelle.

Stiff pasta doughs comprised of semolina may very well be labored in giant portions by machines in volumes not doable by handbook manufacturing. These doughs have been then extruded via bronze “dies” that yielded the type of pasta acquainted at present. Bronze was arduous sufficient to be sturdy however comfortable sufficient to be simply labored utilizing pre-Industrial Revolution applied sciences.

The introduction of equipment powered by steam within the 1800s during the Industrial Revolution made the method of extruding noodles much more environment friendly. As factory-made pasta caught on with the general public, producers rapidly added pastas of varied styles and sizes to their repertoire. Implausible shapes like gemmeli, radiatori, wagon wheels, and stuffable shells quickly crowded the cabinets.

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Pasta makers use bronze dies to extrude numerous shapes. [Photo: LucaLorenzelli/iStock]

America embraces the noodle

The U.S. was sluggish to undertake many of the large number of pasta shapes frequent in Italy.

That’s even supposing Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was a major proponent of pasta and even owned a pasta maker at his dwelling in Monticello.

The earliest Italian immigrants to America came from the northern areas of the peninsula, however their general numbers have been small. The first documented pasta factory in America was established in Brooklyn in 1848, and by the point of the Civil Battle, macaroni, because it was principally known as then, was pretty frequent on American tables. Although Italian noodles have been known as macaroni, they have been most frequently some type of flat noodle, like fettuccine.

American pasta consumption began to surge following the “Nice Arrival” of almost 4 million Italian immigrants to the U.S. from 1880 to 1920, most from Southern Italy. That is when many of the pasta dishes Individuals are aware of at present, equivalent to spaghetti and meatballs, tacky elbow macaroni, and linguine with clam sauce, turned standard.

However it wasn’t till the Italian “meals growth” of the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Eighties that Individuals became familiar with the cornucopia of pasta shapes, sizes, sauces, and fillings that have been frequent in Italy.

Right this moment, Individuals contemplate pasta one of their favorite foods, which implies there’s in all probability at all times room for another sort.