When you think of the history of spaghetti, your mind may instantly go to Italy. And the mouth-watering spaghetti Bolognese that’s enjoyed as a dinnertime staple. Now there are authentic Italian food all around the world and even pasta delivery services like Gigi’s Pasta.
In the reality, origins of this thin-stranded pasta are hotly contested.
Now part of our weekly shopping lists, spaghetti didn’t necessarily start off as a dish for the masses. Here, we delve further into the history of this versatile food. And how it’s earned the status of a worldwide staple superstar.
Where Did Spaghetti Come From?
There are numerous theories as to where spaghetti originated from, with some more far-fetched than others.
The most likely suggestion stems from the geographer al-Idrisi in 1154. Almost a thousand years ago, he chronicled a form of long-strand pasta being produced in the Sicilian town of Trabia. The fact that he took the time to record this discovery suggests this dish was particularly memorable. Which had not been seen during any of his other explorations.
In a less plausible tale, Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer, takes credit for making spaghetti popular in Italy. Some accounts claim he first encountered it in China and brought it back to Venice with him.
Unlike pasta – which is made from durum wheat and named after the pasty dough its forms. Polo’s particular delicacy was described as being the product of a tree, possibly the Sago Palm. We’re sure it was delicious, but it is not the same as spaghetti. And more than likely just reminded him of the pasta from his home country.
How Spaghetti Was Eaten
In contrast to the rich sauces we associate spaghetti with today, it started off as a relatively plain dish. The noodles were simply cooked in boiled water. And then served with a sprinkling of grated cheese.
By the 16th century, spaghetti was combined with all manner of flavours. From delicious sweet treats to savoury and spicy notes. At this point it was a food for the rich, often appearing in elaborate banquets.
The Spaghetti was often shared from the same dish and eaten with hands. Unthinkable as it may be now, forks served a whole other purpose back then (think carving forks, rather than cutlery).
So, yes – if you’re picturing high society members digging in, fist-first, to a shared plate of sloppy noodles, you might not be far off.
How Spaghetti Grew in Popularity
It became a staple food for many people after wheat prices fell in the 17th century. And religious beliefs forbid the eating of meat on certain days. By swapping the sweet flavours for wholesome vegetables, it became a balanced meal in its own right.
The versatility of being able to eat it fresh, or dry it and store it for extended periods of time. Alongside its affordability, firmly cemented spaghetti as a staple in Italian culture.
Spaghetti As We Know It
The revelatory addition of tomatoes – previously considered too exotic by the Italians. In the early 19th century gave birth to the world-renowned spaghetti. Bolognese, catapulting it to dizzying new heights of popularity.
The history of spaghetti is as tangled as the dish itself. One thing’s for sure though – regardless of where it came from. It’s now one of the most popular foods in the world.