We have been eating pasta for thousands of years. In fact, pasta is considered one of the world’s oldest processed foods, dating back to 2000 BC. That’s a long time ago! As a reference point, bread dates back to 8000 BC—an even longer time!
Although most of us think pasta is an Italian creation, many food historians believe noodles first appeared in China. Archaeologists unearthed a 4,000-year-old bowl of perfectly preserved, long, yellow noodles sealed inside an overturned bowl in East Asia—the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found. The pasta archaeologists found was made from two types of millet, a grain that was cultivated in China 7,000 years ago.
Some food historians, however, speculate that neither the Chinese nor the Italians created pasta, but rather it may have first appeared in the Middle East. The first written record of boiled pasta appeared in the Jerusalem Talmud in the fifth century AD. Four thousand years ago seems a little longer to me, but who can be sure?
Historical records indicate that pasta first appeared in Italy around the ninth or 10th century. Initially, Italians made pasta by hand; and spaghetti, which means little strings, was cut from large sheets of pasta with knives or wire cutters. Making pasta was a tedious, time-consuming task. As pasta became a main stay in the Italian diet, Italians needed a more efficient way to make their pasta. The extrusion press, perfected during the Renaissance Period, around the 14th century, allowed mass production of pasta. During the Industrial Revolution, the introduction of machinery powered by steam made pasta production even more efficient.
How did pasta make its way to the United States? Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing the first “macaroni” machine to America in 1789 when he returned from France where he served as ambassador. The first documented pasta factory in America was established in Brooklyn in 1848 by a Frenchman, who powered his entire operation with just one horse. He spread strands of spaghetti out on the roof to dry in the sunshine. Consumption of pasta exploded during “the Great Arrival”, 1880 to 1920, when four million Italians immigrated to the United States.
Have you ever wondered why you see numbers on packages of pasta, like Thin Spaghetti #9. In the early production of pasta, Irish, Greman, Italian, and Asian immigrants worked in pasta factories. They spoke so many different languages, it was difficult for the factory managers to give instructions. To convey the distinctions between the various noodles, pastas were given numbers so that the workers understood which pasta they would make that day. “Today we are making #9.”
Regardless of its origin, we love eating pasta in our house. It is one of our favorite comfort foods. And, for us, nothing is more comforting than the aroma of spaghetti sauce simmering on the store. I use Barilla® n.5 when I make spaghetti.
Hearty Spaghetti Sauce Makes Enough Sauce to Serve 8
I like to serve this with a Caesar salad and garlic bread. This sauce can be prepared in about 30 minutes. Minimum simmering time is 30 minutes, but the longer it simmers, the better the flavor.
For the hearty spaghetti sauce:
2 pounds sweet Italian sausage 2 pounds lean ground beef 4 tablespoons butter 1 large yellow onion, chopped 1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced 2 cans (28-ounces) peeled tomatoes, chopped 2 tablespoons dried oregano 2 tablespoons dried basil 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon large grind black pepper 1 ½ cups dry red wine 2 cans (6-ounces) tomato paste
In a large heavy skillet, brown sausage and ground beef over a medium heat, crumbling with a fork until it is the size of peas. Drain and set aside. In a large kettle, melt butter over a medium heat. Add onion, green bell pepper, and celery and sauté until limp, about 5 minutes. Stir in sausage, beef, tomatoes with liquid, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, wine, and tomato paste. Simmer covered for 30 to 40 minutes.
For the spaghetti:
16 ounces spaghetti noodles Cook spaghetti al dente according to package directions. Drain. To serve:
Grated Parmesan cheese Fresh basil, chopped
Place one-eighth cooked spaghetti on a serving plate or bowl. Top with one-eighth of sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and garnish with fresh basil.
Storing ground beef: With inflating food prices, we are all struggling to stretch the food we purchase. Ground beef will last up to two days passed its “Sell By” date. The “Best if Used by” date is a little trickier. To determine if your ground beef is still safe, give it a smell. If it has a putrid, rancid odor, throw it out. Also, when ground beef starts to deteriorate, it will feel sticky and slimy and turn a brown or gray color. Italian sausage should be safe to use three to four days passed its “Sell-By” date. The “Best if Used by” date is a little trickier. Sausage will also have a putrid, rancid odor when it is no longer safe to eat. If will feel sticky and slimy and change color. Fresh ground meat and sausage should have a firm consistency that breaks apart when you squeeze it.
Storage tip: Refrigerate cooked pasta in an airtight container for up to five days. Because cooked pasta will continue to absorb flavors from sauces or oils, it should be stored separately from the sauce. Carol Ann
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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