Pasta Making Research: History and Tips

Pasta Making Badge, Step 1 and 2

Now that we learned all about wine in our first Badge it’s time to think about some food. What better food to tackle than pasta?  

Who doesn’t love a warm nourishing plate of noodles?  They are so versatile. They come in hundreds of shapes and can be topped with almost anything!  Here you will learn some basic pasta history from our research and join us as we take a pasta making class!  

You can see the Pasta Making Badge Guide, or “recipe” for the badge here . Each Badge Guide contains three steps to be completed in order to earn the badge. These steps can be done on your own, but we encourage you to grab a few friends and learn together!

Step 1 is always focused on research. Look up the topic online, watch videos to learn a skill, or visit your local library.  You can read about the resources and fun facts we found below.

To complete Step 1 of the badge, I looked into the origins of pasta and learned the history of making pasta at home.

The origins of pasta are at best murky.  While we definitely consider pasta an Italian food, some believe it descended from Asian noodles. Others believe that the two types of noodles are unrelated and were developed independently but around the same time.

 National Geographic laid out this basic pasta timeline.  

history of pasta timeline

PBS’s The History Kitchen reports that immigrants mostly from Naples, Italy helped to make pasta a common dish in the US.  In fact, people in the US and Italy continue to prepare pasta in a similar fashion today!

Thomas Jefferson, a pasta lover, helped bring the noodles to the US in the 1700’s.  From Paris he returned to the US with two cases of what he called macaroni!  

The History Kitchen

Pasta is a classic comfort food.  This may be due in part to its long history of being prepared in basically the same way.  People have made pasta with the same ingredients for hundreds of years. I love this fact.  Pasta is easy to make, it can be on the table in less than 30 minutes, we recognize the ingredient list, and it is almost universally loved by all. 

Nearly every country has its own version of pasta. In Germany and Hungary they have spaetzle. In Greeze, orzo. In Poland, they enjoy pocket-like pierogi. Ashkenazi Jewish families make kreplach dumplings.

The History Kitchen

Fresh pasta (pasta fresca) 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. Different pastas have different names, many based on the different shapes the dough it is molded into. 

The list of shapes and types of pasta feels endless. I found this great graphic by Nonna Box on Pinterest to illustrate the wide variety of pasta types. The Nonna Box website has an incredible amount of information about each type! 

At this point in my research I felt comfortable with my pasta history knowledge. But because this is a Pasta Making badge I wanted to look into the history of home pasta making.  

According to Wikipedia, the main ingredients for home pasta making include: flour, egg, salt, and water.  (Although omitting the egg works just as well). A fork is used to combine the ingredients. Sheets of pasta dough are then fed though pasta making machines by hand by turning a crank.  The pasta comes out in flat sheets that are then run through the machine again and cut into pasta noodles. Early pasta machines were found in Naples in the 17th century. 

One pasta legend tells us that the first pasta machine was made by Spadaccinni in 1833, and commissioned by King Ferdinand. The King reportedly asked Spadaccinni to invent a pasta machine after witnessing peasants kneading pasta with their feet!

The Heinz History Center reports that in 1906 Angelo Vitantonio, an Italian immigrant, patented the hand crank pasta machine in Cleveland, OH. This kitchen tool spread quickly allowing for faster pasta making!  

Pasta in classic films: as the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera (1935), Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955), and Goodfellas (1990).

National Geographic

Because Italy was an ally during WWI, American’s began to warm up to Italian flavors during the 1920’s.  Italian inspired meals became more popular throughout the US. They were seen as thrifty (able to cook without meat).  As their popularity grew so did the market for dried pasta. As a result many pasta factories began to crop up. 

Pasta Making/History Podcasts to listen to:

Food in Five

The Weird History

YouTube videos on how to make homemade pasta:

The license for the first pasta factory was issued in Venice in 1740.

Wikipedia

Like wine, certain types of pasta have natural pairings with different sauces! 

To complete Step 2 of the badge, we learned from others. 

On a beautiful June day in Chicago, Elizabeth and I attended a pasta making class offered through Airbnb Experiences. Armed with a couple bottles of wine, we ventured to the outskirts of Chicago to a traditional brick apartment building. In a cozy downstairs apartment we met Robin who had learned to make pasta from her Italian grandmother.  She had worked with Airbnb for a few years renting out a room in her apartment. Airbnb approached Robin regarding participation in the experience part of their company. Because she had a 20 year history of making homemade pasta for friends and family she thought she would give it a try. We are glad she did!  It was an amazing experience. You can find her airbnb experience contact information here

Italians eat an estimated 60 pounds (27 kg) of pasta per person, per year, easily beating Americans, who eat about 20 pounds (9.1 kg) per person.

Wikipedia

Robin taught us how to make pasta in a casual, fun atmosphere. We discussed recipe options. Although people typically make homemade pasta with eggs, it doesn’t have to be.  We requested eggless noodles. Although Robin had not often made vegan pasta, she was eager to show us how. We simply replaced the egg with 2 TBSP water. 

pasta recipe vegan

Here are the detailed directions. You can save the recipe card above for the short version!

1. Mix water and flour in bowl with fork.
2. Once mixed into ball knead with palm (1/4 turns) approximately 10 minutes until a poke with your finger bounces back.
3. Wrap dough in Saran Wrap and put in fridge for 10 minutes.
4.  Remove dough from fridge cut in half.
5.  Take half of the dough and flatten into a rough square/rectangular shape.
6.  Run prepared half through machine starting at 6 (or roll out flat and very thin).
7. Run through several more times progressing through stages 6-1.  If dough gets long and uneven work back into rectangular shape.
8.  Cut into pasta using machine, tools or knife
9.  Flour cut pasta and cook 2-3 min in boiling water.  

It was absolutely delicious.

Robin even awarded us a Professional Amateur Pasta Maker certificate!

Robin’s grandmother passed down this vintage Noodle Machine from Italy. 

italian pasta machine

Upon returning from our trip we did some pasta machine research of our own and eventually settled on this one from Amazon (below left). The machine is is made in Italy and the heavy duty steel feels very high quality.

If you are interested in making ravioli these handy stamps are a fun way to make the shapes. These are the ones we purchased. They are sturdy and sharp.

Find out in our next post how we completed Step 3 and hosted our own pasta making dinner party!

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