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FOOD HOLIDAY: National Pasta Month & Pasta History


Potstickers and other dumplings are types of pasta, a food invented by the Chinese 4,000 years ago (photo courtesy CBCrabcakes.com).
 

October is National Pasta Month; pasta is one of America’s favorite foods. Who invented it? The Chinese!

While Thomas Jefferson introduced pasta to the U.S. in 1787, upon his return from Europe where he served as minister to France, it was a baked macaroni and cheese dish. Red-sauced pasta dishes became popular a century later.

About five million Italians immigrated to the U.S. between 1880–1914, 80% from the impoverished regions of southern Italy and Sicily. Naturally, they brought their cuisine with them. Southern Italian pasta dishes have a preponderance of tomato-based sauces.

The quintessential Italian food originated in China, a country without tomatoes (i.e., no tomato sauce, and no cream sauces either).

But egg noodles, rice noodles and bean thread noodles were turned into a vast variety of dishes, including chow fun, dumplings, lo mein, mai fun, sesame noodles and wontons.

Noodles have been found in a 4,000-year-old excavation in western China. The first written account of noodles dates to between 25 C.E. and 220 C.E.

In the 10th century, all-night noodle shops appeared, allowing the noodle-hungry public constant access to tasty dishes.

 
It wasn’t until 1271 that seventeen-year-old Marco Polo set off for Asia with his father and his uncle. He returned 24 years later, in 1295, with riches, treasures and—perhaps the greatest treasure—the recipe for pasta.

  • Read the history of pasta.
  • Check out our six featured pasta recipes, including dessert pasta.
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    ALSO SEE:

  • Chinese Dumplings & Italian Ravioli: The Difference
  • Dumplings All Day Wong, a great cookbook
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