“To learn all there is about a food, one needs to know its history to appreciate it, understand it and respect it.” Manuela Valenti
One food that can be traced back into antiquity, Italian antiquity that is, is Pasta. That simple yet incredibly versatile symbol of the Italian cuisine, dates back to Etruscan times, passed down to the Ancient Romans and Greek.
The History of Pasta.
The Etruscan, known as the real Italians, were a population of ancient Italy dating back to the 900 BC, pre-Roman times, established in an area known as Etruria. Etruria comprised Tuscany, Umbria up to the river Tiber and northern Lazio. Later expanding north to the Padan region (current Emilia-Romagna, Lombardia and Veneto) and to the south up to the Campania.
The Etruscan civilization had a profound influence on Roman civilization, subsequently merging with it at the end of the first century BC. This long process of cultural conquest and assimilation began with the traditional date of the conquest of Veio by the Romans in 396 BC. (1)
In an Etruscan tomb in Cerveteri, currently Rome, were located all the tools necessary to make pasta: pastry board, rolling pin, bag to dust the flour on the table, ladle, knife and even a wheel to get the wavy edge of some types of pasta. In those times pasta was known with other names. For the Etruscan the ceremonial pasta for funerals known as makària became what we know today as maccaroni. In Ancient Greece an elongated large type of pasta was called làganon while in Latin it was called laganum, known today in the south of Italy as lasagna, not so common in the north.
Marcus Gavius Apicius, an Ancient-Roman cook and gastronomer, writer of the first ever cook book dating back to the first century BC, describes how to prepare the dough for the pasta, and the different ways it can be served, setting forever the Italian culture of pasta.
Later, in the medieval Arab Kingdom of Sicily, the poet and musician Ziryab, who was also a passionate gastronome of the ninth century AD, described mixtures of water and flour very common in Muslim Sicily, similar to pasta, and ancestors of vermicelli and spaghetti, all passed down from its times as part of Ancient Greece.
While in the south of Italy pasta was made with water and flour, in the north it was made with flour and eggs. This northern Italian method of making pasta dough with eggs, spread to the region of Germany around the 1800’s becoming popular, reaching as far as northern France.
Bernardin Buchinger, German abbot writes the cookbook that will become the basis of the Alsatian (northern region of France) gastronomic tradition, in which it is said that the Alsatians had integrated in their diet a mass version enriched with “many eggs” (which for that company it meant 6 or 8 per kg of flour) of a type of pasta called nudeln in German, from which the English term noodle will derive.
The ancient pasta was cooked not by boiling but in an oven, where the condiments and the pasta were mixed together and cooked at once, similar to how lasagna is still made. During medieval Italy, boiling pasta in water became the new method of cooking it.
By the time Marco Polo visits China, in 1275 AD, pasta was already widespread in ancient Rome all the way to the Arab Kingdom of Sicily former Ancient Greece, but that didn’t stop the myth our ancestral Italian pasta was invented in China.
There is no doubt pasta made with eggs is tastier, more nutritious and fulfilling compared to the southern Italian version, however this richer fresh pasta needs to be made an consumed within 1-2 days, where the flour and water version can be dried and stored for longer periods of time or bought at the supermarket. So take that in mind when preparing this fresh pasta recipe.
Pasta Fresca All’Uovo Autentica Ricetta Italiana – Homemade Pasta Authentic Italian Recipe.Course: Food, Manuela’s JournalCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium
To make pasta at home the following tools are required: fork and bowl, pasta roller with the fettuccine attachment, rolling pin, knife or cutting wheel, wooden surface or a large wood cutting board, pasta drying rack or extra large cotton dish towels. These ELLY Ikea dish towels are perfect for this job.
NOTE: The proportion of ingredients are for one portion which can feed one person. Simply multiply the ingredients by the number of people you want to make pasta for.
1 large egg (approximately 70 grams/2.46 oz)
100 grams (3.53 oz) of white wheat flour
A pinch of salt
- Add the flour and salt to the bowl. Mix the dry ingredients with a fork. Create a well in the center of the flour.
- Crack the egg or eggs in the well in the flour and gently break/beat the eggs with the fork until homogeneous, incorporating the flour slowly mixing until all the eggs have been absorbed by the flour. The dough at this point will appear dry and flaky.
- Transfer the dough to the wooden table or wood cutting board slightly sprinkled with flour. Knit the dough in every direction until smooth, approximately 20-30 minutes. If the dough is too dry, do not add water, instead only wet your hands and continue working the dough until smooth. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a wet towel making sure it doesn’t touch the dough and let rest for 30 minutes in a warm part of your kitchen.
- Meanwhile, assemble your pasta drying rack or extend the extra large dish towels on a table and sprinkle them with flour, and assemble your pasta machine if you have one.
- After the 30 minutes have elapsed the dough is ready to be made into any pasta, but for the purpose of this recipe we will made fettuccine. –If you are working with the pasta roller continue with step 6. If you don’t have the pasta roller skip to step 7–
- Cut the dough into 4 or more pieces depending on how much dough you’ve made, about the size of a golf ball. Adjust the setting on your pasta roller to the largest or thickest setting. Flatten one of the pieces of dough with your fingers or if you prefer the rolling pin. Feed the dough through the roller once. Fold the now longer strip of dough in three bringing one end in and the other end on top. You should be left with a three layer rectangularish piece of dough. Without changing the setting on your pasta roller, feed the dough again, starting on one of the two sides where the three layers are visible. Fold it once more and run it again. You should be left with a sort of rectangular shaped smooth flat dough. Now turn the setting on your roller down one click and run the dough through, following the same steps as before. Keep going until you’ve reached the desired thickness for the pasta you want to make. For fettuccine it’s better to stay between 2 or 3. Thinner than that and the cutting rolls won’t do their job properly, too thick and might not be as pleasant to eat. If making vermicelli or spaghetti, run the dough through up to the thinnest setting your pasta roller would allow. If the sheet of dough gets too long cut it in a more manageable length always leaving it long enough for spaghetti, fettuccine or any other long type pasta (about 30 cm or 12 in). Once you’ve achieved the desired thickness, it’s time to run this smooth long strip of pasta through the cutting rolls of your machine. Feed the smooth strip of dough through the fettuccine cutting rolls. Place the long strips of pasta in a drying rack or dish towels to dry. Repeat the process until you’ve used all the dough.
- Cut the dough into 4 or more pieces depending on how much dough you’ve made, about the size of a golf ball. On your wooden board sprinkle some flour. Flatten one of the balls of dough with your fingers and continue with the rolling pin working in only 1 direction back and forth from the center of the strip of dough. Fold the now longer strip of dough in three bringing one end towards the center and the other end on top. You should be left with a three layer rectangular piece of dough. Turn the dough so one of the sides with the 3 visible layers faces you and roll/stretch the dough back and forth again. Fold it once more and roll it again. You should be left with a sort of rectangular shaped smooth flat dough. Continue rolling the dough back and forth until the dough is thin enough and smooth. Add flour to the table and rolling pin if needed to keep the dough from sticking to either. To make the fettuccine, with a sharp knife or the cutting wheel cut strips of about 1 centimeter wide or 3/4 of an inch. Place the long strips of pasta in a drying rack or dish towels to dry. Repeat the process until you’ve used all the dough.
- **Already cut and dry pasta should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 1-2 days.
- ***The uncut dough can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for latter use for no more than 1-2 days.
- The pasta is ready for cooking right away, there is no need to dry it before cooking it. Depending on how thick the pasta you made is, and the type of pasta, it can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to cook, so keep an eye on it. Always cook pasta al dente. Serve with your favorite pasta sauce or for our authentic Fettuccine al Burro e Formaggio, wrongly known as pasta alfredo, with a good butter, fresh ground pepper and Parmigiano Reggiano.