Pasta has been around for thousands of years, dating as far as back 1100 B.C which makes its origin a baffling subject for culinary researchers and experts. While it was widely expounded that pasta was invented by the Chinese, this was later debated as originally Italian after Italy started growing durum wheat. Yet durum wheat originated in the Middle East, to which another narrative has come to light that the Middle Easterners are the actual originators of pasta. .
One argument against the belief that pasta originated in China, is that studies of early Chinese civilizations show that people typically grew soft wheat that isn’t ideal for pasta making. The so-called earliest forms of pasta found in East Asia were made from millet, the ingredient used for making pilaf before the arrival of wheat or rice.
Why Pasta Could Have Originated in the Middle East
The wheat needed to create a pasta that is dry and sturdy is called durum or triticum, which were originally grown in the Middle East. This makes it more likely that Middle Easters were already making and eating forms of pasta from couscous, before it became popular as the staple Italian food known as pasta. .
The contention is that pasta can be cooked using minimal fuel, a resource which, at that time, was sparse in Arab domains. The Middle Eastern couscous would have stored well in warm climates, which was ideal for keeping the durum-based couscous firm and dehydrated for long distance travellers.
The earliest type of pasta shape was simply a sheet and was treated in ways similar to bread dough. The early Middle Eastern pasta would have resembled an unleavened matzo bread that was dipped in a savory sauce. The earliest date that made mention of boiling as a way to cook pasta-like bread was in the 5th century AD. in Jerusalem Talmud.
Vermicelli and spaghetti that are central to Italian pastas were probably invented by the Arabs, since durum appeared in Italy only in the 9th or 10th centuries. That was the time the growing of durum wheat became popular in Sicily, making them the popular ingredient among regional pasta food makers. It was also after Italians learned how to make semolina flour using durum wheat.