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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Marco Polo bringing back pasta from China

"Dried pasta, the kinds made with durum wheat, is found in Italy from about A.D. 800. It was, in fact, the Muslim occupiers of Sicily who spread the manufacturing and drying technique. By the twelfth century, pasta produced in Sicily and Sardinia was being exported to mainland Italian territory and northern Europe, where it was marketed by the powerful maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa. Documents exist to prove this, should there be anyone left—and it appears that there is—who still believes that Marco Polo introduced noodles into Italy in 1296 on his return to Venice from China. In reality, by that time, people throughout Italy had been eating pasta for at least a century. Marco Polo does relate an encounter with the Chinese noodle and uses the word pasta to describe it, clearly being already familiar with both term and concept. The notion that spaghetti began in the Far East seems to have originated as recently as 1938, in Minneapolis, as a marketing gimmick in an article by one L. B. Maxwell in the trade publication Macaroni Journal."

--- Encyclopedia of Pasta / Oretta Zanini De Vita

History Of Pasta

"Pasta is an ancient food—not so ancient that it predates written records, but no one was taking notes when this popular food first came onto the scene. Scholars credit the Chinese with making pasta from rice flour as early as 1700 B.C.E. The pasta-centric Italians believe pasta dates back to the ancient Etruscans, who inhabited the Etruria region of Italy (the central western portion of Italy, what now are Tuscany, Latium and Umbria) from the Iron Age into Roman times (from the 11th century B.C.E. to the 1st century B.C.E.). Around 400 B.C.E., they began to prepare a lasagna-type noodle made of spelt. The Romans who followed made lagane, a kind of lasagna, from a dough of water and flour. However, both the Etruscans and the Romans baked their noodles in an oven, so boiled pasta had yet to be born in Italy.

According to the American historian Charles Perry, who has written several articles on the origins of pasta, the first clear Western reference to boiled noodles, is in the Jerusalem Talmud of the 5th century C.E. Written in Aramaic, it used the word itriyah. By the 10th century, itriyah in many Arabic sources referred to dried noodles bought from a vendor, as opposed to fresh ones made at home. Other Arabic sources of the time refer to fresh noodles as lakhsha.

Credit for the invention of boiled pasta is given to the Arabs. Traders from Arabia packed dried pasta on long journeys over the famed “Silk Road” to China. They carried it to Sicily during the Arab invasions of the 8th century."
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