The Twisted History of Pasta

While today it’s an everyday meal for the masses, pasta was once only available for Italian nobles.

During the 20th century, Americans developed a love affair with pasta. On the big screen, spaghetti played memorable roles in classic films such as the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera (1935), Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955), and Goodfellas (1990).

Pasta became an increasingly common sight on restaurant menus in the United States, but the Italians’ love affair with pasta has a long, complex, and passionate history. The route by which spaghetti, ravioli, and tortellini became international household names has taken some surprising turns over the centuries.

Made from the flour of durum wheat, pasta takes its name from the pasty texture of the dough when it is first mixed. Different pastas have different names, many based on the different shapes the dough is molded into. Fresh pasta is often mixed, cooked, and eaten right away, whereas pasta secca is dried in order to be stored; it is often prepared later by cooking it in boiling water.

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