The History of Pasta
The composition of pasta is quite simply nothing more than flour and water. These basic ingredients remain the same from country to country. The difference lies in the composition of flour, which could be of rice or wheat base, or of beans or potatoes. Although the ingredients might be simple and limited, they require two very important elements. Whether it is fresh or dry pasta, the water needs to be pure and clear and the flour of high quality.
In Italy, flour or wheat semolina is most commonly used. We must make a distinction between durum wheat and common wheat. Durum wheat clearly contains a higher quantity of protein than common wheat. It is easier to manipulate due to its smooth, elastic but firm texture that does not misshape during cooking. To obtain the same results with common wheat, it is necessary to add eggs to the preparation.
The actual origin of pasta is a mystery. Patillas (small round cakes in Italian) were first to appear in Roman scripts. Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman philosopher, also made mention of lasagnas, although it was more common knowledge that the Greeks, Chinese, Japanese and the Koreans consumed them. The only certainty to the origins of pasta can be found when the first industrial manufacturing was attempted. This took place in Italy, in Naples to be precise, during the 15th century. Those pastas however were insufficiently dried and could not be preserved. It was not before the 19th century that we acquired “ascuitte” (dry) pasta.
In Asia, pasta is widespread under vermicelli or its ravioli forms. They constitute the basis of oriental gastronomy. In France, Catherine de Medicis introduced them in the 15th century, while Cardinal Jules Mazarin sprung the pasta trend in the 18th century; it was considered a dish for the privileged.
The 19th century marks the appearance of the first drying machines and the democratization of pasta consumption. Since then, they have never left our plates. Today, the manufacturing is completely robotic. Durum wheat passes through several machines in order to separate the grains. The obtained semolina is then petrified with water. Therefore we obtain a homogenous mix, which can be stripped or sheeted to result in the desired pasta shape. From there, they will be dried and packaged before landing on the shelves of local markets and ending on our plates. For centuries, pastas have constituted the majority of our meals. Hence their nutritional value and their affordable prices make up for indisputable assets. Today, durum wheat pasta is loved well beyond the borders of Italy: of good value, they constitute a staple food that is nourishing, healthy and that offers a wide diversity in meal preparations.