Contrary to legend, pasta is not from China, nor taken from there to Venice by Marco Polo, who lived in the 11th century.
It makes an appearance in the oldest cookbook in the world, which is of Babylonian origin, in other words dating from 4000 BC. Several types of pasta are mentioned: risnatu, bapirru, and quallatu.
It is also found in Apicius' book De re coquinaria. Cooked by the Greeks and Romans, pasta has since been used almost everywhere ever since and has evolved over the centuries through creations and adjustments made by cooks.
But in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Italy was the center of all known pasta, from both the East and the West. This country is still the pasta center of the world, and pasta is its national dish: Italians consume an average of 28 kg per year per person. Italy is also the world's largest producer.
Catherine de Medici, good Italian woman that she was, helped to make pasta fashionable in France in the 16th century when she arrived at the Court of France for her marriage to Henry II. It very quickly became popular in Alsace and Provence. Until the 17th century, it was cooked with lots of spices, often with sugar, and always cooked for a long time.
Pasta al dente and salsa di pomodoro (tomato sauce) made their appearance in the 19th century, in Naples.
Auguste Escoffier was the first food author to devote a whole chapter to pasta. He was also the first in France to make Macaroni with Alba truffles (he used 200 g of them).
Long confined to the tables of the rich, once pasta started to be industrially produced in the 20th century, it soon spread to the masses.
It was taken to the US by English settlers, and then the large numbers of Italians who emigrated there in the 19th century made it popular. This country is now the third largest producer of pasta in the world. In the early 20th century, American canners developed tomato purees and sauces and then canned cooked pasta, including the famous macaroni and cheese. In California, chefs created different recipes combining pasta and vegetables.
The quality of pasta mainly depends on the wheat used to make the flour and/or semolina, while its gluten content determines how firm it remains during cooking.
A distinction is made between everyday pasta, superior pasta, and pasta made with eggs.
Organic dried and fresh pasta is made with wheat from organic agriculture. In Europe, these types of pasta have a logo on their packages to certify that they are organic.
Dried pasta is sold in bags or cardboard boxes. It is made using either industrial or traditional methods. It can be colored: red (tomato or beetroot), green (spinach or basil or parsley), yellow (saffron or egg yolk), brown (mushroom or unsweetened cocoa), black (squid ink), or blue (methylene blue or curaçao).
It should be stored in a cupboard, at room temperature. A best before date is given.
Fresh pasta is usually packed in trays under a modified atmosphere with a use-by-date, usually within 21 days. After purchase, it should be kept in the refrigerator. It is the same for gnocchi.
Quel que soit leur accommodement ensuite, les pâtes sèches et fraîches se cuisent dans une grande quantité d'eau bouillante. Le temps de cuisson dépend de leur qualité et de leur taille, celui des pâtes sèches étant évidemment toujours plus élevé.
Whatever the recipe, both dried and fresh pasta is cooked in plenty of boiling water. The cooking time depends on the quality and size of the pasta, with dried pasta always needing more time.
The average portion for 1 person is 50–60 g dried pasta and 150–180 g fresh pasta. Dried pasta increases in volume, absorbing three times its weight in water (50 g dried pasta makes 150 g cooked pasta).
There are endless recipes for pasta. In all countries, it is also added to soup and served as an accompaniment for fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, and vegetables.
Les pâtes sèches se conservent au placard, à l'air ambiant. Une DLUO (Date limite d'utilisation optimum) est indiquée. Les pâtes fraîches sont généralement conditionnées en barquettes sous atmosphère modifiée avec une DLC (Date limite de consommation) généralement de 21 jours. Après l'achat, elles se conservent au frais. Il en est de même pour les gnocchi.
Whatever its shape or size, almost all fresh and dried pasta has the same nutritional value when cooked.
Pasta made with eggs is slightly higher in protein.
Pasta provides more complex carbohydrates, and therefore energy, than any other cereal, and this is why it is essential to a balanced diet.
In Europe, the production of pasta is highly regulated. It is all made from durum wheat flour kneaded with water at a ratio of 4 parts flour to 1 part water.
The following ingredients may be added: milk (1.5 g dried milk in 100 g pasta), gluten (minimum of 20% in the finished product), eggs (at least 140 g whole egg or yolk per kilo of flour), legumes, juice or extracts from vegetables or herbs. No other additives are permitted.
Any added products must be indicated on the packaging.
The semolina and water are mixed in a mechanical mixer. The resulting paste is then forced through a die (for round pasta) or passed through a laminator (for flat pasta). It is then cut.
The pasta is dried to reduce the moisture content down to the 12% statutory rate. It is then packaged.