Italian Cuisine – The History of Pasta and the Pasta Maker

italian cuisine

Pasta and the pasta maker have had a long and vibrant history. Historical evidence shows we have been consuming pasta for over two thousand years. The carvings of ancient Etruscan tombs reflect what appears to be some of the first recognized pasta making tools. In addition, the Greeks prepared a meal called “lagane” from wheat durum, which they would roast over a fire or bake in an oven. It was a very early form of lasagna.

We find the first reference to boiled pasta in the Jerusalem Talmud, a 5th century historical document compiled by rabbis, where describe dried noodles available for purchase in the market.  Dried noodles keep well and are easy to transport so sailors traveling Mediterranean trade routes would carry them on their journey.  So, pasta spread throughout the region and Italian cuisine begins to build its fame.

While Italy associate with pasta, only the wealthiest could afford the luxury until more efficient means of producing it.  Initially pasta makers would knead the dough by hand for most of a day before flattening it out by hand into thin sheets to be cut into strands.  Cut strands were either cooked immediately or hung out to dry.  However, the process was time consuming and expensive.

Making Pasta

During the 17th century, the pasta production process evolved through a series of innovations.  The mechanical press was modified by creative inventors to accommodate the creation of pasta.  The modified device strongly resembled today’s hand-cranked pasta maker and so reduced the time to develop the sheets of dough for cutting.  Kneading the dough to produce the sheets was done by hand until the 1700’s, when Ferdinando II, King of Naples, commissioned a machine be devised to knead the dough. A process was developed infusing boiling water into the flour, which was then placed into the machine to be kneaded into dough.  The first pasta factory went into operation in 1740, essentially introducing a press powered by several men, making pasta more affordable for all levels of income.

By the mid 1800’s, pasta making was a full-blown industry.  Pasta makers north of Naples, in the Amalfi region of Italy, created water mills that would grind the wheat into flour and designed mechanical presses to eliminate the manpower used to press the dough.  The Marseille purifier was introduced in the 1870’s which further enhanced the production of semolina flour by automating the separation from the bran of the wheat previously done by hand-held leather sieves. Thus, The mechanical shakers proved a more efficient means to produce the semolina flour required in pasta production.

Soon pasta became a mass-produced commodity, offering various shapes of pasta as we know them today, and Italian factories began shipping pasta world-wide.

As other countries began large-scale wheat production, their desire to produce pasta locally perfectly positioned Italian manufacturers.  Exporting their pasta maker and expertise allowed them to capitalize on the worldwide popularity of pasta.

Italian Cuisine, a Great and Tasty Choice

italy map

Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps, Italy has remained largely separate and unchanged through history, even during the reign of the Roman Empire.  However, their food history extends far beyond their physical boundaries.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, city states began to diversify, establishing their own identities and traditions.  They each had their own unique cooking methods and recipe variations, producing their own cheeses and wines locally.  For instance, Tuscan beef developed in the north, black truffles became popular in the Marches, provolone and mozzarella cheeses in the south, along with citrus fruit varieties.

Today the Italian cuisine landscape continues to evolve, although we find the changes occurring outside of Italy’s borders.  For example, american chefs are fusing the classics with local cuisine to take best advantage of both worlds. The are effectively combining traditional ingredients into new and exciting dishes.  We’re even seeing Italian Asian fusion restaurants emerging.

Additionally, the outrageously popular pizza came from Campania, gaining its fame through simple, fresh ingredients.  Across the globe, pizza has endless combinations and enjoyed by almost everyone.  Should you ever find yourself in Italy, try their favorite, Pizza Margherita, named after Queen Margherita.  The simple combination of tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella cheese on a thin crust worth the trip.

In summary, Italian cuisine has captured the heart of many a foodie across the globe.  Known for tasty, fresh ingredients of vegetables and grains with specialized sauces.  A variety of meat sauces define many common recipes, from lasagna and meatballs to a variety of pasta and spaghetti preparations.

Italian desserts are unusual and delicious and deserve exploration.  Italian Villa offers many traditional options to delight your palette.  Finish off your meal with traditional spumoni!


We are one of the premier Italian Restaurants in Allen, TX, offering home-made
traditional Italian cuisine. Come visit us today at: 121-B N. Greenville Allen, TX
75002, Phone: 972-390-2189

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