Marco Polo brought pasta to Europe? fake

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The origin of the rumor

We are not sure about the origin of this rumour, as Marco Polo, son of a merchant from Venice, in the story of his long journey to China between 1274 and 1291 says nothing about such a meal that he would have brought home.

But it’s possible that the legend that he brought Chinese pasta back to Italy stems from a marketing strategy launched in 1929 by the National Macaroni Manufacturers Association to promote their American-made pasta. It showed a member of Marco Polo’s crew, sometimes called spaguetti, sometimes called macaroni, according to the sources, hitting women who made pasta yarns.

According to Pierre-Brice Lebrun, author of Small treatise on noodles, advertisers would have been inspired by the story of Marco Polo, who said he saw the Chinese use wheat to make all kinds of pasta and not bread. But nothing new, because Greeks, Romans and Arabs already ate noodles.

The first pasta

In fact, historical texts and the works of classical poets indicate that pasta was part of the diet of the ancient Greeks.

On the Chinese side, a noodle dish over 4000 years old was found in the ruins of Lajia. Lāmiàn (hand-pulled) noodles were made from flour of two millets, which is similar to the wheat grains used in Chinese noodles and European noodles today.

Prior to this discovery, the first written record of noodles in China dates back to a book written during the country’s Eastern Han Dynasty, between AD 25 and 220. A recipe for Chinese boiled dumplings also appears in a glossary written around the year 230.

So the Chinese invented pasta? It’s not safe.

Noodle recipes were also mentioned in a Mesopotamian culinary treatise from 1700 BC. discovered. AD, translated and published 1995. We learn that the Mesopotamians ate “grated” noodles made from wheat flour and water and crumbled in a boiling liquid. Even today there is a similar type of pasta in Italy, the Grattugiata pasta.

Lasagna, they were well known in the Greco-Roman world. The Greeks, the Romans, but also peoples of the Middle East ate a dish called “laganon,” a flat strip of dough cut into irregular strips that was used in soups with leeks and chickpeas, according to Giorgio Franchetti, an ancient Roman scholar who wrote Book of ancient Roman recipes. A Culinary Treatise (De re coquinaria) published in IVe Century, but attributed to Apicus (about 25 BC – about 37 AD), himself described laganapasta stuffed with meat.

Two stories?

Some argue that noodles and noodles are two distinct foods, reflecting two cultures and culinary identities, and thus would have evolved in parallel: the noodles found in Lajia for Asia, and the Mesopotamian or Roman noodles at the other end of the continent.

For the proponents of this idea, noodles and pasta are distinguished by the type of grain used to make them, their method of preparation and cooking, and their fillings, which are specific to each civilization. Furthermore, there is no direct connection between the Asian and Italian ways of mixing grains with water to form noodles or noodles, points out food historian and Italian Academy chef Anna Maria Pellegrino.

Sliced ​​and dried pasta

The story of the invention of the first cut and dried pasta is just as dark. Some say they owe it to the Chinese, others to the Italians, and still others to the Arabs. To survive long journeys in the desert, where water was scarce, the Arabs dried their noodles, giving them a cylindrical and hollow shape, similar to macaroni, to make them last longer. Spaghetti, whose name derives from the Arabic language and means thread or cord, would be a legacy of that influence.

In a book from 1154, an Arab geographer named Al-Idrin recalls the caravans who subsisted on ‘rista’, a dish of dried noodles cooked in a meat broth, a recipe we still find in the Middle East today Find .

Dried noodles are said to be in the IX. It was introduced to Italy by the Arabs in the 19th centurye Century when they conquered Sicily. They then spread across the country, to neighboring countries, and then to North America, where the first documented pasta factory was established in Brooklyn in 1848.


Marco Polo may have brought rice noodles with him from China, but historians have clearly established that he was not responsible for introducing noodles to Italy or Europe.

Photo: Mosaic by Marco Polo, Palazzo Doria-Tursi, Genoa

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