Thom's Recipe File
Pasta was developed independently in a number of places
around the globe (though some anthropologists dispute this). In each
of these places,
the local grain was the primary starch in the diet.
Grains are normally consumed as a gruel or grain paste. Pasta noodles
were developed as an alternative to a gruel or bread. Pasta noodles
can be created in places where there is no oven, nor enough fuel to support
an oven. In contrast, bread requires a great investment in time and
effort to create. Any place you can have something dry, you can have
The earliest known records of
noodles in Europe are found on Etruscan tomb decorations from the 4th
century BC. Utensils that are thought to have been used to make pasta
were also found in the ruins of 79 AD Pompeii, where other Chinese objects
as mirror was found, the silk road was extended to Rome in 30 BC. Thus
we know the popular legend of Marco Polo bringing back pasta to Italy from
China is absolutely false - though he certainly may have brought back an
assortment of Chinese noodle recipes with him. Note, however, that
Chinese noodles are always used fresh, never dried before industrialization;
and they are comprised of one giant noodle mass through the cooking process
because it is considered bad luck in China to cut noodles before serving
them to eat. In Italy and France, cooks still made fresh pasta,
because fresh pasta tastes far better than dried.
Thomas Jefferson is
credited with bringing the first macaroni machine to America in 1789
when he returned home after serving as ambassador to France
What is Pasta?
The English word pasta generally refers to noodles and
other food products made from a flour and water paste, often including also
egg and salt. Less frequently, the term macaroni is used for the same
Pasta can also denote dishes in which pasta products are
the primary ingredient, served with sauce or seasonings. The word
comes from Italian pasta which means basically "paste", and by extension
"dough", "pasta", or "pastry" as in "small cake". As recently as 1918
the English word "paste" was used instead of or alongside the Italian pasta.
Today the word "pasta" is reserved for Italian-style noodles in
English-speaking countries, while the word "noodle" has a more general
Dried Italian-style pasta
is made from durum wheat semolina or flour, which gives it a light yellow
color. Asian-style noodles as well as most fresh noodles are made from
regular (non-durum) wheat flour. Some pasta varieties, such as
Pizzoccheri, are made from buckwheat flour.
Gnocchi are often listed
among pasta dishes, although they are quite different in ingredients (mainly
milled potatoes) and mode of preparation.
Pasta is made either by extrusion, where the ingredients
are forced through holes in a plate known as a die, or by lamination, in
which dough is kneaded, folded, rolled to thickness, then cut by slitters.
Fresh Pasta cooks quickly and has a delicate taste, but spoils quickly due
to its high water content. Dry Pasta generally contains about 7%
moisture, which makes it shelf stable for about a year.