Italy, the leading consumer and producer of pasta
Six out of ten Italians eat it every day, and with 23 kilos consumed per person per year, Italy is unsurprisingly the biggest consumer of pasta in Europe, according to a survey carried out in September 2020 by Doxa.
Faced with increasing global demand, production reached record levels. About 16 million tons of pasta were produced in 2019, including 3.5 million in Italy, the leading production country. This figure has doubled in 20 years, according to the International Pasta Organization (IPO).
Where was pasta invented?
You might think Italy is the birthplace of pasta, but in 2002 a noodle dish dating back over 4,000 years was discovered in China. So would the Middle Kingdom have surpassed the Italians? Sure, but pasta recipes have also been found in a Babylonian culinary treatise from 1700 BC.
The Greeks, Romans and Arabs consumed pasta long before Marco Polo’s journey to China in the late 13th century, from where he is said to have brought back the famous pasta.
Wheat cultivation and first pasta
Wheat cultivation began in Mesopotamia around 8000 BC. People already ate a kind of pasta there, “risnatu”, made of wheat flour and water, grated or crumbled in a boiling liquid, most often water. Grated pasta is the oldest known form.
In Italy, there is still a similar type of pasta, pasta grattugiata, as well as in Alsace, where you can find spätzle.
Pasta is the ancestor of lasagna
In ancient times, the Greeks, Romans and many peoples of the Middle East ate a dish called “laganon”, a word meaning piece of dough cut into strips. They were rectangles of wheat dough placed in a dish in several layers, between which a filling of meat or fish was spread and eggs and a sauce were added. It is probably the progenitor of our lasagna.
From fresh pasta to dried pasta
It is the nomadic populations of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa who live in the desert and have very little water, which undoubtedly was the cause of the drying out of pasta for conservation purposes. .
These nomads invented tubular pasta to speed up the drying process. Already in the 11th century there are references to a dish called “rista”, a kind of macaroni mixed with lentils, a recipe that can still be found today in the Middle East. The pasta drying technique was introduced in Palermo between the 9th and 11th centuries during the Arab domination. In the Middle Ages, Sicily was already famous for the production of its pasta, and today Italian recipes are still the reference for its preparation.
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