Giuseppe Garibaldi, the creator of modern Italy and its greatest hero, once said:
“Pasta shall unite Italy”
In the 21st century his words prove prophetic, not only for Italy but for the whole world, as pasta is a food that unites all of mankind.
Where did pasta begin? No one knows, although many countries claim its heritage. It was once believed that the first pasta was brought from Chine by Marco Polo, but, later on, researchers discovered that a favorite dish of Roman Legionaries was lasagna or, at least, an early version. Another kind of pasta, “rhista”, very popular with the Arabs, is mentioned in medieval texts. Also, 4000 year old remains of kinoa foods have been found in China. Many claim the patronage, and the glory it brings, of the most famous food on the planet, but none can prove it!
Greek mythology mentions that the god Haephestus created an instrument that made dough strings, much like spaghetti. The word “macaroni” is Greek and hails from από the word “macaria”. “Macaria” were foods made of wheat, which symbolized rebirth. Another ancient Greek dough product was “laganon”, which the Romans called “laganum” and today is called lasagna!
A pivotal point in pasta history was the Arab invasion of Sicily during the 8th century. The Arabs brought hard wheat flour to Italy and the Sicilians became masters of the kind. The first export unit in the area is officially mentioned in 1154. By 1700 Naples was home to 60 ships that sold pasta, booming to 280 by 1785. Naples’ climate was ideal for the proper drying of pasta, which were spread on wooden lengths and left to dry under the sun in every corner.
The dough was being made by tread, much like grape must, until King Ferdinand II commissioned Cesare Spadaccini to create the first mechanical brass treadle. Soon after that, the first pasta factories began to operate.
While no country can claim pasta’s creation, all glory for its spread to the modern world goes to Italy. The first recorded pasta recipe appears in an Italian cookbook of the 15th century. The Italians created a huge variety of shapes, each ideal for different sauces, ritualized pasta cooking and took advantage of the uniqueness of Italian cuisine. As a result, their products are being sold all over the globe and there’s an Italian restaurant in every corner.
The main reason for the great popularity pasta enjoyed is that, once dried, it can be preserved for quite a long time, making transfer and storage until the following year’s grain harvest easy. Genoa’s naval archives contain reports of pasta shipments dating back to the 13th century. Ease of transfer combined with wheat abundance contributed greatly to pasta’s spread and popularity across the Mediterranean and, eventually, the world.
When the Spanish brought tomatoes from South America, pasta found its perfect match. Up to this point, pasta was usually flavored with ground pepper and cheese and was eaten by hand. With the introduction of New World tomatoes, the first tomato sauces for pasta appeared around 1800, usually tomatoes boiled with salt and basil. Soon after, the four-tine fork, able to transfer spaghetti from the plate to the mouth with fewer losses, appeared.
In Asia, rice flour pasta is widely spread, due to rice abundance. It has fed millions of people over the centuries in crowded China and the Far East.
Τα Ελληνικά Ζυμαρικά ξεκίνησαν από το πρώτο μισό του 19ου αιώνα στο Ναύπλιο, πρωτεύουσα του νεοσύστατου ελληνικού κράτους. Εκεί λειτούργησε το 1824 η πρώτη «Φάμπρικα Μακαρονιών». Μέχρι τότε τα μόνα ζυμαρικά που γνώριζαν οι Έλληνες ήταν αυτά που έφτιαχναν στα σπίτια τους δηλ. οι παραδοσιακές χυλοπίτες και ο τραχανάς. Σύντομα δημιουργήθηκαν και άλλες μικρές βιομηχανίες ζυμαρικών κυρίως από ιδιοκτήτες αλευρόμυλων σε πολλές περιοχές της Ελλάδας . Μετά τον Β΄ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο λειτουργούσαν 120 εργοστάσια ζυμαρικών τοπικής εμβέλειας, εκ των οποίων, περίπου το 1/3 βρισκόταν στην Αττική.
Pasta in Greece appeared in the first half of the 19th century in Nayplio, capital of the young Hellenic State. It was there, in 1824, that the first “Pasta Factory” operated. Up to that point, the only pasta known to Greeks were homemade, the traditional “chylopittes” and “trahana”. Soon, more small pasta production industries were created, mainly from flour mill owners, all over Greece. After the end of WWII, 120 local pasta factories were in operation, with roughly 1/3 situated in Attica.
Pasta is the favorite food in the world, and the 25th of October was named International Pasta Day. The Italians fell in love with pasta more than any other nation and created 600 distinct kinds.
According to the World Pasta Organization, Italy is the head of pasta consumption per capita, while Greece comes fourth, with an average of 10.4 kilos per annum.