The saucy tale of how pasta came to be

By Gastropod
25th September 2019
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It’s one of food’s most beautiful relationships: pasta and sauce. But which came first? We bring you the saucy — and occasionally scientific — history of an Italian staple.

Listen in now as we take you from the very first mention of “a food of flour and water,” served “in the form of strings,” to the cutting-edge shape-shifting pasta of tomorrow.

“You would think such a national treasure as pasta would be very well-documented,” said Maureen B. Fant, translator of Oretta Zanini de Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta, and co-author, with Zanini de Vita, of Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way.

But, in fact, before the Encyclopedia‘s publication in 2009, there was no catalog of Italy’s hundreds of pasta shapes—not to mention the unique stories that lie behind each one.

Food historian Oretta Zanini de Vita had investigated everything from Papal foods to the peasant cuisine of the Italian countryside, but she turned her attention to pasta when she realised that Italian culinary heritage was disappearing before her eyes.

With Fant’s help, we trace Italian history—economic, colonial, industrial, religious, royal—through the invention of new pasta shapes and the development of pasta-making machinery, before ending up at Carnegie Mellon University to explore the science behind the flat-pack, self-assembling pasta of tomorrow.

This was originally published in February 2018.