History Of Pasta

The beginning of pasta date back to times of yore.

The first hint we have of pasta comes from the tools used for making and cooking pasta found in an Etruscan tomb. Shortly after the birth of Christ, a chef named Apicius mentions something which sounds a lot like lasagna in his book of recipes. Around the year 1000, we have the first documented recipe for pasta in the book "De arte Coquinaria per vermicelli e macaroni siciliani", (The Art of Cooking Sicilian macaroni and Vermicelli) written by Martino Corno, chef to the powerful Patriarch of Aquileia. Pasta was certainly well known in Arab countries, where still today they speak of "makkaroni". From these countries it spread to Greece and Sicily (then an Arab colony). In fact, Palermo was the first historical capital of pasta, because it is here that we have the first historical sources referring to the production of dried pasta in what seems like a small-scale industrial enterprise. In 1150, Arab geographer Al-Idrisi reports that at Trabia, about 30 km. from Palermo, "they produce an abundance of pasta in the shape of strings ("tria" in Arabic) which are exported everywhere, in Calabria and in many Muslim and Christian countries, even by ship."

1279... "a basket of macaroni"

The first "official" mention of pasta: a notary\'s inventory of an inheritance speaks of "a bariscela (basket) full of macaronis." A document from 1244 and another from 1316 testify to the production of dried pasta in Liguria as well. Between 1400 and 1500, the production by craftsmen of "fidei" (pasta in the local dialect) became quite widespread in Liguria, as demonstrated by the founding of the Corporation of Pasta-Makers in 1574 in Genoa. Three years later, the "Regolazione dell\'Arte dei Maestri Fidelari" (Rules for the Pasta-Masters\' Art Corporation) were drawn up in Savona.

The 17th century: a mechanical press

In Naples, population growth was aggravating the problems of food accessibility, until a small technological revolution (the spread of the kneading machine and the invention of the mechanical press) made it possible to produce pasta at a much lower price. Pasta thus became the food of the people. Naples\'s vicinity to the sea (as was the case of Liguria and Sicily) facilitated drying, a process which allowed pasta to be conserved for an extended period of time.

The 18th century: how was pasta made?

In Naples, pasta was made by mixing semolina dough by foot. The pasta maker sat on a long bench and used his feet to mix and knead the dough. The king of Naples, Ferdinando II, was not happy with this method of pasta-making and hired a famous engineer (Cesare Spadaccini) to improve the procedure. The new system consisted of adding boiling water to freshly-ground flour, and kneading by foot was replaced by a machine made of bronze that perfectly imitated the work done by man. In 1740, the city of Venice issued Paolo Adami a license to open the first pasta factory. The machinery was simple enough. It consisted of an iron press, powered by several young boys. In 1763, the Duke of Parma, Don Ferdinando of Bourbon, gave Stefano Lucciardi of Sarzana the right to a 10 year-monopoly for the production of dried pasta - "Genoa-style" - in the city of Parma.

The market

1830: tomatoes are here!

At the start of the 1800\'s, pasta met tomato. Until then, it had been eaten without seasoning or with cheese. The first mention of using tomato dated back to the 17th century. It was imported into Spain by the conquistadors of the New World, and later spread throughout Europe, finding an ideal climate for cultivation in the Mediterranean countries. But tomato didn\'t become a common ingredient in Italian cooking until the end of the 1800\'s. At first, the tomato was considered an ornamental plant, and according to a legend that took some time to die off, actually poisonous! It wasn\'t until 1778 that Vincenzo Corrado in his "Cuoco galante" (The Gentlemen\'s Chef) mentioned a tomato sauce, but without the idea yet of using it to season pasta. In any case, Italy deserves all the credit for "launching" the tomato. Tomato sauce, boiled in a pot with a pinch of salt and a few basil leaves, was used beginning in the early 1800\'s by open-air vendors in