There used to be a time not long ago, when in order to savor a bowl of impeccably prepared pasta, one had to travel all the way to Italy. Or else, one had to remain content with partaking macaroni pasta dish flavored with limited ingredients like cheese, meatballs, and tomato ketchup. Pasta, believed to have been prepared for the first time in Sicily around 1154, has come a long way since then. It is one of the staples of time-honored Italian cuisine that has readily evolved to become one of the must-have fares of any typical continental diet, either European or American.
Tracing the evolution of pasta
Pasta which literally stands for ‘paste’ or ‘dough’ is an Italian term used generically to represent all kinds of spaghetti, vermicelli, and noodles made in different sizes and shapes. The evolutionary trail of pasta from the most basic or primitive version to the modern-day varieties is a matter of intense debate. Many historians believe that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy, after having coming back from an extended trip to China where noodles were being consumed from 1st century AD.
Nevertheless, many archaeologists and historians have stumbled upon documentary and circumstantial evidence which proves that noodles in the form of ‘laganum’ (better known as lasagna) were being served by Roman cooks much before Marco Polo’s voyage. Though Sicily was the chief supplier of pasta in the medieval times, it started being produced on a large-scale, commercial basis in Italy with the introduction of extrusion machines that turned the durum wheat flour into fine, elongated strips.
Basic pasta types
Though pasta comes in near endless varieties each having a specific shape and size, all the different variations can be grouped under two broad kinds-‘pasta fresca’ (fresh pasta) and ‘pasta secca’ (dried pasta). Fresh pasta which is commercially prepared or homemade, usually from eggs and wheat flour is more popular in Northern Italy. On the other hand, dried pasta like cannelloni or ravioli, is prepared extensively in Southern Italy and is cheaper to make, compared to fresh pasta.