|The astonishing variety of Tagliatelle|
One could argue that from the thousands kinds and different shapes of local pasta and its related "pasta chauvinism" begun the unique italian passion for the creativity and the design. And, by the way, how was created pasta?
|In XIX century pasta became a luxury everyone could afford|
According the legend, Marco Polo would have brought spaghetti from his legendary travel to China. But there are many doubts about this romantic narration. There are traces of pasta in Western World even before Marco Polo.
For example, Cicero used to eat a dish called Làgana. The Laganum was a sort of flat pasta very similar (also in the name) to our lasagna. It is interesting to notice that even two thousand years after Cicero, in some parts of Italy lasagna are still called lagana! Someone thinks that the whole Marco Polo legend was created by the Macaroni Journal (a italo-american review) to promote a dish yet not so well known in America.
But moving from legends to history, the actual origin of pasta is far from being
perfectly known. For example we know that the Greeks used to ate pasta, and so did the Etruscans. It is thought that pasta is a dish that grew together with the civilizations of Man along his expansion throughout Eurasia. When Man started to cultivate cereals and in the Neolithic started to create tools to mill cereals and then add water.
|In the Middle Ages Italy, pasta was made like this|
But beside this historical ride, we can say that the first traces of the pasta intended as we do in modern times is to be found around XIV century. During Middle Ages infact the pasta starts being boiled, and no longer put in an oven. There is a written document from that period, the "Liber de Coquina", that describes how to do the tagliatelle, from a neapolitan writer. In Italy we use to say "pastasciutta", rather than pasta, and that's because the dried pasta that we know today was created to last longer, probably by arabs that used it to eat when crossing the Sahara desert. In Sicily, that was then invaded by arabs, the water was abundant, and pasta started to be boiled rather than baked. The success was so great that many small shops started the commerce of this product. Other pasta shop then opened in the great portual cities, like Neaples and Genoa, then in Apulia and Tuscany and from there to the rest of Italy and the World.
Once that America was discovered and the tomato was brought here in Europe, pasta was ready to the final and most glorious step. In the previous centiries infact pasta was served with meat, meat sauces and cheeses (yes, the cheese always was there, we can immagine the Romans eating their pasta with Parmigianvs Reggianvs he he he!).
Around year 1500 were created in the small city of Gragnano, near Naples, the first artesanal "pastifici", or pasta ateliers, that back then were family-run. The Gragnano pasta, now legendary to gourmets, foodie, chefs and simple pasta lovers worldwide, is unique because of the particular climatological conditions of the small city, that's settled just above a valley, on the Monti Lattari mountains. In the baroque era, a crisis in the textile sector converted the vast majority of Gragnanese people to work in the "pastifici". Many watermills were then built to work the pasta in the valley below, more than thirty, that you can see still now in the so-called "Valle dei Mulini", or the "Mills valley".
|Pasta left to dry in Via Roma, Gragnano's main street|
After the Industrial Revolution, in the Eighteenth Century, were introduced in
|today things have changed, but the taste is the same!|
|Pasta di Gragnano is our favourite!|
After a decline in the XX century, today Gragnano has rebirth as the "city of Pasta" par excellence. Today the city is the first pasta producer and pasta exporter in Italy. We can conclude or super tasty ride with the words of a myth of the neapolitan cultural world, a genial and ironical figure of the Italian Theater and Cinema: Antonio de Curtis, better known as Totò: "Se non è di Gragnano, desisti!", that can be translated as "If the pasta is not from Gragnano, give up!"
Greetings al dente!