A short history of everyone's favourite pasta – spaghetti - Real Word

Spaghetti. The word rolls off the tongue almost as deliciously as it tastes. Perfect for every mood – from a cosy lunch for one to a lively meal out – spaghetti infatuates foodies worldwide. And as if you needed one, National Spaghetti Day (4 January annually) presents the perfect excuse to gorge on these long, round-shaped noodle strands of Sicilian origin. To celebrate everyone’s favourite pasta, we uncover a little history behind spaghetti as well as the best places to taste it in Italy.

Where does spaghetti come from?

spaghetti making

Although Greek mythology shows the god Vulcan using a device that made strings of dough, it’s widely believed “spaghetto” (the singular for spaghetti in Italian) originated in 12th century Palermo, in sunny Sicily.

Made from durum wheat, each strand used to be 50cm long (in contrast to the 20-25cm we see today). It rapidly became popular in Italy; and after spaghetti factories appeared in the 19th century, its popularity skyrocketed overseas. Especially in the US.

Fun fact: in the year 2000, over 1.3 million pounds of spaghetti were sold in American grocery stores… enough strands to circle the Earth nine times!

Today, millions make this wonderfully versatile food a part of their lives. Throwing in their favourite ingredients and sauces to mould their own mouth-watering meals, or scouring Italy in search of a new favourite.

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What’s the best way to eat spaghetti?

Simplicity is perfection with spaghetti. The locals keep it light. ‘Aglio olio’ (spaghetti with red chilli, garlic and oil) is a simple masterpiece and a big favourite. Don’t drown your spaghetti in buckets of sauce or cheese. Keep the portion size moderate rather than gigantic enough to make you fall asleep (we’ve all been there). Note that the primi (pasta) dish in Italy is not eaten as a one course meal.

Top tips: If making at home, remember to always cook ‘al dente’ (meaning ‘to the tooth’ in Italian). This means a slightly chewy texture, not soft or mushy. And many locals believe you should make your pasta water as salty as the sea. To stay authentic, never eat spaghetti with a spoon and never break it in half when cooking.

The spaghetti search is on – where to go and what to try?

You guessed it. Head to Italy, where sensual food and wine ooze out of every street corner and idyllic plaza. All of Italy’s 20 unique regions are begging to be explored. So regardless of where you’re heading – there’s a local spaghetti dish for you that will blow your mind.

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Rome – Tonnarello Cacio e Pepe

Tucked away down Rome’s charming side streets is a mouth-watering Tonnarello Cacio e Pepe with your name on it. Authentic to the city, it’s made from sheep’s milk cheese and black pepper. Just one taste leaves you licking your lips for hours after. We told you: simplicity is perfection.

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Sicily – Spaghetti al Nero di Seppie

Saunter over to Sicily for a taste Spaghetti al Nero di Seppie (spaghetti with squid ink). Tender, fresh and daring for those not used to it, this one throws you into the ocean in a frenzy of fresh flavour. For something different: the Sicilian pesto pasta is also to die for.

Naples – Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti alle Vongole (served with clams) is a Neopolitan staple. Brought to life with garlic, parsley, garlic, rep pepper flakes, white wine, olive oil and frighteningly fresh clams, this one will stick long in the memory.

Amalfi Coast – Spaghetti al Limone

A personal favourite, spaghetti al limone is the perfect pick me up. Zesty fresh with luscious lemon, like most things, it’s tastes even better with the sea air touching your skin. Equally, it can hit just the spot on a cosy winter’s night.

RELATED CONTENT: The best Italian cities to experience the perfect winter break

Lazio

You’ll recognise Spaghetti alla Carbonara. One of the most-devoured dishes in Italy and abroad – it’s made made from eggs, parmesan, cured pork, and black pepper. Its creamy, nourishing goodness makes it one of the world’s best comfort foods. Today, Rome and Lazio both believe it originated with them.

Venice

A slight variation on spaghetti, Bigoli in salsa is a Venetian classic. These long, thick spaghetti-like bigoli strands are made from buckwheat flour, and come with anchovy sauce and onions. A perfect starter!

Hungry yet? What is your favourite Italian dish? Tell us in the comments below!

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