Fettuccine, Cannelloni, Macaroni; let's face it, the Italian's passion for pasta is romantic and today we enjoy simple fast recipe creations that are some of the most enjoyable to eat time and time again. Italy has 20 different regions. Travel with pasta, Tuscany vs Sicily, here is some fun and slightly intellectual facts of the history of pasta.
The modern word "macaroni" derives from the Sicilian term for kneading dough with energy. Pasta making in early times was often a labour intensive, all day process. It goes to show that even back then, without computers and the hustle and bustle of city living, thought was given to make processes more efficient.
A dream to drink wine and eat pasta in Tuscany brings forth the rich red vinos to complement the hearty red sauces.
The well known island of Sicily is enriched with history with flavours from their previous Arab conquerors, mixed with local seafood and sardines, sweet tomatoes and wild fennel which grew on the island.
The History of Pasta
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.
The modern word "macaroni" derives from the Sicilian term for kneading dough with energy, as early pasta making was often a laborious, day-long process. How these early dishes were served is not truly known, but many Sicilian pasta recipes still include typically middle eastern ingredients, such as raisins and cinnamon, which may be witness to original, medieval recipes.
This early pasta was an ideal staple for Sicily and it easily spread to the mainland since durum wheat thrives in Italy's climate. Italy is still a major producer of this hard wheat, used to make the all-important semolina flour.