Pasta History 101: Origins

There is a long-standing belief that Marco Polo was the one who introduced pasta to Italy from China. While he is credited with bringing many of the advancements that characterized the Age of Enlightenment in Western Civilization, it is widely held that pasta in Italy dates back to ancient Roman culture.

The Romans made a baked dish called langane that closely resembles modern lasagna, and boiled pasta as we know it appeared in the Jerusalem Talmud in the 5th century.  Some short time later, Arab traders began producing dried pasta, which eventually reached the northern Mediterranean coast through Sicily.  Mainly traditional Sicilian dishes contain Arab influences like nutmeg, cinnamon and dried fruits.

With the first factory production in Sicily in the 12th century, pasta spread quickly across the European continent because it stayed fresh for a long time and traveled well.  With the development of mass mechanical production in the 14th century, pasta went from being a relative luxury to an affordable dietary staple.

In the late 1800’s, Italians immigrating to U.S. brought their pasta making recipes with them. It is interesting to note that Thomas Jefferson brought macaroni back with him from a trip to Italy, as well as drawings of the pasta machine he observed there. He eventually re-designed a pasta machine that proved to be easier to operate and more durable than the one he had procured from Italy.