Origin of ordinary things: Pasta

Owing to its ease of storage and cooking, pasta is a favourite in many homes. Net photo.

Sandwich, Pasta is one of the world’s most accessible foods. 

Made from the flour of durum wheat, pasta takes its name from the pasty texture of the dough when it is first mixed. Different pastas have different names, many based on the different shapes the dough is moulded into. Fresh pasta is often mixed, cooked, and eaten right away, whereas pasta secca is dried in order to be stored; it is often prepared later by cooking it in boiling water.


According to thehistorykitchen.com, noodles existed in Asia long before Polo’s trip to China. Archaeologists believe that central Asia is most likely the first area to have produced noodles thousands of years ago. From Asia, it travelled westward. Nomadic Arabs are believed to be responsible for bringing early forms of pasta to Europe. Once it reached the Mediterranean the process was refined, and durum wheat became the ingredient of choice for pasta flour because of its high gluten content and long shelf life. 


Over time, because of pasta’s affordability, shelf life, and versatility, it became firmly rooted in Italian culture. The warm Mediterranean climate of Italy is suited to growing fresh vegetables and herbs, which meant that Italians could get creative with a delicious variety of pasta sauces. Tomato-based sauces emerged as a favourite complement to pasta, and tomatoes remain the most popular ingredient in pasta sauce today.


Pasta made its way to the New World through the English, who discovered it while touring Italy. Colonists brought to America the English practice of cooking noodles at least one half hour, then smothering them with cream sauce and cheese.

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States of America, is credited with bringing the first macaroni machine to America in 1789, when he returned home after serving as ambassador to France.

During an extended stay in Paris from 1784-1789, Jefferson ate what he called macaroni back then, the word could have referred to any shape of pasta. He enjoyed the dish so much that he returned to America with two cases in tow. When his supply ran out, he sent for reinforcements via a friend from Naples.

Macaroni and cheese was enjoyed by many during the period of the Civil war in the mid-19th century (1859-1864), owing to its ease of storage and cooking, along with the satisfying taste. This according to pastafits.org.

Today, pasta remains a family favourite and is produced in countless shapes and sizes, with wheat, veggie, and gluten-free options all available.


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