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The History of Pasta

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Pasta is the pride of Italian cuisine and it offers us a history worth looking at. While the arrival of Italians in the New World lead to the huge popularity pasta has today, its origins go far beyond modern times. It is believed that Ancient Greeks and Romans had discovered a flattened dough form, which they called in Greek laganon. However, laganon was not boiled like modern pasta – it was roasted in ovens or on heated stones. Mentions about another variation, called lagana, are made by Apicius, a Roman writer of the first century AD.

Arabian influences are also related to the history of pasta. Several historians think the Sicilian word "maccaruni" which translates as "made into a dough by force" is the origin of our word, macaroni. Ancient Sicilian lasagna dishes included different spices introduced by the Arab invaders, a strong argument that pasta was introduced in the area by the Arabs. However, it seams that the seasoning and sauces are of Italian invention. One other thing worth mentioning is that the wheat used for getting semolina – durum wheat – had excellent growing conditions in Italy (semolina is used to create dry pasta).

The book "De arte Coquinaria per vermicelli e maccaroni siciliani" (The Art of Cooking Sicilian macaroni and Vermicelli) makes the first mention of pasta as an accepted meal. First mentioned by the chef to the Patriarch of Acquileia, the initial contact of the Italian people with pasta is believed to be in the city of Palermo. Through the 14th and 15th Centuries dry pasta had already started to grow in popularity, as it could be easily stored on ships. Long hollow tubes of pasta are mentioned in the 15th Century records of Italian and Dominican monasteries. The multitude of qualities specific to pasta (versatile meals, cheap and economical to produce) made it a common meal by the 17th Century.

The massive Italian migration from the 1900’s brought pasta popularity to the United States as well. Although macaroni and cheese was already a popular meal in America, the turn of the century and the Italian migration brought the spaghetti dish we enjoy today.

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