- Home based in Thailand -
Nothing says Italy like its food, and nothing says Italian food like pasta. Pasta is integrant part of Italy's food history Wherever Italians immigrated they have brought their pasta along, so much so today it can be considered a staple of international cuisine. Unlike other ubiquitous Italian products like pizza and tomato sauce, which have a fairly recent history, pasta may have a much older pedigree, going back hundreds -if not thousands- of years. Unravelling the long and often complex history of this dish we have to look at its origins and some of the myths surrounding it. Many school children were taught that the Venetian merchant Marco Polo brought back pasta from his journeys to China (along with gelato, some believed...). Some may have also learnt that Polo's was not a discovery, but rather a rediscovery of a product once popular in Italy among the Etruscans and the Romans. Well, Marco Polo might have done amazing things on his journeys, but bringing pasta to Italy was not one of them: noodles were already there in Polo's time.
There is indeed evidence of an Etrusco-Roman noodle made from the same durum wheat used to produce modern pasta: it was called "lagane" (origin of the modern word for lasagna). However this type of food, first mentioned in the 1st century AD, was not boiled, as it is usually done today, but ovenbaked. Ancient lagane had some similarities with modern pasta, but cannot be considered quite the same. The country will have to wait a few centuries for its most popular dish to make a further culinary leap forward.
Like so much of southern Italian life, the Arabic invasions of the 8th century heavily influenced regional cuisine. Today, the presence of Arabic people in the south of the peninsula during the Middle Ages is considered the most likely reason behind the diffusion of pasta.