Trivia time - how well do you know your pasta history?
Those who thought that Marco Polo introduced Italy to pasta when he returned to his homeland after a voyage to China must be from America. Because, in 1938 the Macaroni Journal publicized this romantic story in its magazine to entice Americans to eat pasta - an effort by the government to increase the consumption of its funded wheat production!
In reality, pasta has a much longer history in Italy. Depictions of sheets of pasta which were then dried - known as “laganon”, or “lasagna” - exist from Etruscan tombs from the 9th-10th centuries BC, and Greek and Latin poets and philosophers wrote of it already from the 5th-8th centuries BC.
Pasta as we know it, however, seems to come from the Arab invasion of Sicily circa 1000 AD, as documents still exist of the writings of Arab philosopher Ziryab describing in 1058 the diffusion of dried pasta similar to spaghetti throughout Southern Italy.
Since the Byzantine age, pasta rapidly became diffused throughout the rest of Italy, as it was cheap, easy to transport, and lasted a long amount of time, which was particularly useful for sailors. While a widely-consumed food, It wasn’t until the late 19th/early 20th century that pasta would become a refined dish eaten by all. It was once the poor man’s food, served plain without sauce, eaten with one’s hands, as utensils were expensive. Eventually, the myriad varieties of pasta would become the staple of the Italian diet and one of the most beloved foods in the world.