How it was born, the history and legends of Pasta
Fresh Pasta is a simple combination of flour and water or eggs, certainly one of the pillars of Italian food.
The earliest historical traces can be traced back to Ancient Rome, Apicius speaks extensively of the “làgane” in his “De Re Coquinaria”; but he focuses on the condiments as if to suggest that their preparation was so customary that they don’t need too many explanations. Lagana were fine sheets of fried dough made of wheat flour and the juice of crushed lettuce and was an everyday foodstuff.
I have heard so many times the history of Marco Polo importing the pasta from China (sims to be the “Macaroni Journal” in America to have published an article in this matter) that I will not comment anymore. For sure, both types of pasta, Italian and Chinese, far precede Polo’s travels and have no relation to each other. They are only the result of two distant and different cultures, such as the Italian one in the West and the Chinese one in the East, which is a parallel and independent way, without one affecting the other, have developed some similar but at the same time very different foods. Most probably the need of filling the stomach helped people to develop those products.
In the Middle Ages, the boiling of pasta appeared for the first time, since previously the main method was cooking in the oven, where the sheet directly absorbed the liquids that made up.
Pasta was originally eaten by hand
It makes sense when you think about it, especially if you consider that sauces came later.
Originally, people ate pasta with their hands. After all, it would be much easier to grab and enjoy it.
However, when sauces were introduced with pasta, it became difficult to eat it by hand without having to change clothes many times a day.
Therefore, cutlery was added to the Italian table – first in high class culture, then becoming universal throughout the land.
Tomato Sauce came later
People had been eating pasta for thousands of years before anyone ever thought to add tomato sauce. The reason is mainly that tomatoes are not native to Europe and were not introduced to the continent until Spanish explorer Cortez brought tomatoes from Mexico to Europe in 1519. Tomatoes and pasta soon became an iconic combination in Italy.
Italians Eat the most Pasta
As you had expected, Italy is the country that eats the greatest amount of pasta worldwide. As you might not expect, however, the #2 and #3 countries that eat the most pasta are: Venezuela and Tunisia!
Did you know that?
How much Pasta do Italians Eat?
The International Pasta Organization claims that if Italians ate their average yearly amount of pasta in spaghetti shape (rather than the numerous other varieties of pasta shapes), they would eat approximately 600 million kilometers of spaghetti — enough noodles to wrap around the planet 15,000 times.
How many shapes of Pasta are there?
25? 50? 100? How about 600? Yes, that is the right answer. This is one of the least known facts about pasta.
There are 600 official pasta shapes produced throughout the world. At least, this is the information according to the International Pasta Organization, which was founded to help increase awareness and consumption of pasta.
- Pasta is simple: It takes a few simple ingredients to make one of the world’s most perfectly delicious foods. Traditionally, pasta is made from durum wheat and water. Fresh egg pasta recipes require eggs, and sometimes olive oil.
- Pasta makes people happy: Eating pasta makes you happy! This is true! The carbohydrates in pasta increase the body’s production of serotonin—the neurotransmitter that triggers feelings of happiness and well-being. Add that science stuff to the fact that pasta tastes great, and you will have got yourself one happy and well-fed individual.
- Pasta is healthy: Pasta is a nutritious complex carbohydrate. When combined with vegetables, meats, and legumes it becomes one of the easiest and healthiest of mealtime choices.
- There is World Pasta Day! October 25 is World Pasta Day. This day annually recognizes the important role that pasta plays in helping to feed the world with healthy, sustainable, and tasty dishes.
- It was not always “al dente“: The cooking firm, yet tender, pasta has not always been the way that Italians prepare pasta. Before the 16th century, all the pasta dishes were cooked for a longer duration and enjoyed as a sticky texture.
All great pasta should be cooked to perfection—not limp and mushy! So, be sure to always keep an eye on your noodles and slightly undercook them in salted water.
Things that you should never do:
- Adding oil to the cooking pot! Why? We have no clue as to where this idea came from originally, but a lot of people tend to add oil to the cooking water thinking it will stop the pasta from sticking together. Use enough water to cook and remember to stir your pasta regularly as it is cooking, so it will not stick together. Therefore – no need to add oil.
- Not adding salt to the water: we are constantly reminded that too much salt is not good and therefore choose to leave it out where we could, including pasta. This is a mistake. Pasta needs plenty of salt because salt toughens the surface and keeps it from becoming slimy. Luckily, the pasta does not absorb salt in the same way that vegetables or potatoes do, so you will not be eating all the salt that you use in the cooking water.
- Overcooking the pasta: Mamma mia! Soft, fall apart pasta is a big no-no, especially in Italy.
- Rinsing the pasta after cooking: if you rinse your pasta immediately after cooking, you are ruining it. Al dente pasta has just the right amount of starches on the surface to absorb the sauce you will serve with it, which is where pasta gets its taste. If you rinse, you take away these important starches.