Who really invented pasta?

Italy, the leading consumer and producer of pasta

Six out of ten Italians eat it every day, and with 23 kilos consumed per person per year, unsurprisingly, Italy is the biggest consumer of pasta in Europe, according to a study conducted in September 2020 by Doxa.

Faced with rising global demand, production reached record levels. Around 16 million tonnes of pasta were produced in 2019, including 3.5 million in Italy, the leading producing country. This figure has doubled in 20 years, according to the International Pasta Organization (IPO).

Where was pasta invented?

You might think that Italy is the birthplace of pasta, but in 2002 a noodle dish dating back over 4,000 years was discovered in China. So would the Middle Empire have outdone the Italians? Sure, but pasta recipes have also been found in a Babylonian culinary treatise dating from 1700 BC.

The Greeks, Romans and Arabs consumed pasta long before Marco Polo’s trip to China at the end of the 13th century, from where he reportedly brought back the famous pasta.

Wheat cultivation and first pasta

Wheat cultivation began in Mesopotamia around 8000 BC. People were already eating a kind of pasta there, “risnatu”, made with wheat flour and water, grated or crumbled in a boiling liquid, most often water. Grated pasta is the oldest known form.

In Italy, there is still a similar type of pasta, pasta grattugiata, as well as in Alsace, where you can find spätzle.

Pasta is the ancestor of lasagna

In antiquity, the Greeks, Romans and many populations of the Middle East consumed a dish called “laganon”, a word which means piece of dough cut into strips. These were rectangles of wheat dough placed in a dish in several layers and between which a stuffing made of meat or fish was spread and eggs and a sauce were added. It is probably the ancestor of our lasagna.

From fresh pasta to dry pasta

It is the nomadic populations of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, living in the desert and having very little water, who were undoubtedly at the origin of the desiccation of pasta, for conservation purposes. .

These nomads invented tube-shaped pasta to speed up the drying process. As early as the 11th century, there are references to a dish called “rista”, a kind of macaroni mixed with lentils, a recipe that can still be found today in the Middle East. The pasta drying technique was introduced in Palermo between the 9th and 11th centuries, during the Arab domination. In the Middle Ages, Sicily was already famous for the production of its pasta and today Italian recipes remain the reference for cooking it.

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