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The History of Spaghetti

Pick your sauce, cause Jan. 4 celebrates the thin, long, cylindrical spaghetti of Sicilian and Italian origin.


Undeniably loved by many, pasta is usually made from semolina flour and formed into sheets or various shapes, then cooked by boiling or baking.

The term spaghetti is plural for the Italian word spaghetto, a diminutive of spago meaning “thin  string” or “twine.”

Semolina flour.

Varieties of the dish are based on sauces like bolognese, alfredo, tomato, meat, clam, and others. It is traditionally served topped with grated cheeses like Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, and Grana Padano.

There is significant debate on the actual origin of spaghetti. It is commonly believed to be from Sicily in 1154, while others think it was only brought to Italy by Marco Polo via China. Polo ventured to China in the time of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and the Asian country had been consuming noodles as early as 3000 BC, specifically in the Qinghai province.

Mosaic of Marco Polo, photo courtesy of Salviati.

In the Jerusalem, there are records in Talmud of itrium, boiled dough common in Palestine from the 3rd to 5th centuries AD. An Arab dictionary in the 9th century describes itriyyaas as string-like shapes made of semolina and dried before cooking. Itriyya was mentioned being made and exported from Norman Sicily in 1154.  Because it is easy to store, dried pasta became popular in the 14th and 15th centuries. People were able to keep the dried pasta in ships while exploring the New World. A century later, pasta could be found around the globe during the voyages of discovery.

American restaurants served pasta by the end of 19th century as Spaghetti Italienne, known to have been made of noodles cooked al dente and served with a mild tomato sauce flavored with accessible spices and vegetables such as garlic, bay leaves and cloves.

Photo courtesy of nola.com

The world record for the largest bowl of pasta was set in March 2009, but was reset a year later when a Garden Grove California Buca di Beppo restaurant filled a swimming pool with more than 13,780 pounds of spag. The current Guinness World Records holder for the largest bowl of pasta weighed 17,417 lb, achieved by Czanieckie Makarony, Gmina Miejska Krakow and Magillo Restaurant, in Krakow, Poland, on October 2015. 40 chefs worked on the bowl which took 19 hours to prepare.

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