What comes to mind when you think of pasta? Italy? Well, you're not wrong. Italy has been portrayed as the godfather of spaghetti for, well, a long time. But I think you'd be shocked to find out that the creation of noodles is actually ambiguous, and that spaghetti and meatballs as we know it is actually not a traditional Italian dish. You will probably not find spaghetti and meatballs on the menu if you venture to Italy, and if you do it's probably only there to please American tourists!
I know, I was confused when I learned this too. Where did we come up with the image of an Italian grandma making a huge pot of spaghetti with delicious meatballs?
The exact origin of pasta has long been debated and discussed. Some historians trace it back to the Romans, some see mention of it in the Talmud in Israel, some have seen early references by Marco Polo in his travels to China. But I'm not a historian, and I am not here to debate the exact origin of pasta. I just want to talk about spaghetti because I love it DEARLY.
Point is, however pasta ended up in Italy, it did. One thing historians can all (probably) agree on, is that spaghetti and meatballs became a thing when Italians began to immigrate to America from 1880-1920. With more income to spend on food, Italians in America decided to start incorporating meat. Ground beef, not the most expensive meat, but nonetheless, meat.
But, this meat was not originally designed to accompany the spaghetti.
As far as sauce goes, the dominant sauce in America at this time was "sailor sauce." Which comes from Italian's marinara sauce, or mariner, “marinaro,” meaning sailor. It consisted of canned tomatoes because that was what was accessible at the time.
Right at this time, the popularity of spaghetti noodles arose in the U.S. since it was the only Italian thing people could get their hands on. People began combing these three ingredients together: spaghetti noodles, sailor sauce, and meatballs. Voila! A star is born.
"Spaghetti" as we know it, is now one of the biggest, most popular dishes in households all across America. All thanks to these interesting turn of events.
What's your favorite spaghetti recipe?