Was I to walk up to just about anyone and recite the name, "Marco." I'd nearly guarantee the response would be an odd look and, "Polo?" More than a kid's pool game, Marco Polo was a famous Venetian merchant that spent many years abroad in greater Asia. Thus, bringing back first-hand accounts of all he had seen in his travels.
The myth goes that along with the plethora of information that Polo brought back, noodles were amongst the far East's wonders. However, did this master merchant bring pasta back to Italy? Let's check it out on WTF Wednesday!!
Alright, let's get the spoilers out of the way; Marco Polo did not bring pasta back to Italy. In the late 9th century, Arabs (Lybians) had control of Sicily and thus introduced the Sicilians to durum wheat. So, unless Messer Polo owned a DeLorean with 1.21 gigawatts of power, he missed the boat by 400 years or so.
Durum wheat was then mixed with water and eggs in order to make a paste, which is literally what pasta means. The paste was then dry roasted, baked, or boiled to create something edible. The first actual mention of boiled pasta comes from the Jerusalem Talmud. Definitely not a recipe book, the Jerusalem Talmud is a compilation of Mishna (Jewish Oral Histories) that was developed over the course of 200 years and was completed in the year 200 CE. There is a discussion on whether or not boiled bread should be considered unleavened bread under Jewish Law in the book. Now, admittedly, pasta was probably being boiled before the Talmud; this is the first historical document containing mention of boiling dough.
Of the 600 types of pasta, how many have you eaten?
Check out an extensive list here.
The best part is that most pasta we use here in the States has fun Italian names. However, their translated names aren't what we would call appetizing.
Barbine: Little Beards
Linguine: Little Tongues
Pappardelle: To Pig Out
Su Filindeu: The Wool of God
Vermicelli: Little Worms
Calamarata: Squid Like
Castellane: Castle Dweller
Crest di Gallie: Cock's Comb
Fagioloni: Large Beans
Maltagliati: Badly Cut
Penne: Feather Quill
Cencioni: Little Rags
Orecchiette: Little Ears
Occhi di Pernice: Partridge's Eyes
Stortini: Little Crooked Ones
Tripolini: Small Willow Basket
Cappelletti: Little Hats
Fagottini: Little Cloth Bundles
Occhi di Lupo: Ribbed Wolf Eyes
Pansotti: Big Bellies