We've probably all heard that Marco Polo brought spaghetti to Europe from the Far East in the late 13th
century. While it's true that he probably encountered it there -- or at least a type of long noodle made from either rice flour or hard wheat flour -- pasta had existed in Europe for
centuries. In fact, a fourth century B.C. Etruscan tomb has a bas-relief carving of a group ofnatives making what appears to be pasta. Pasta in Italy is a long tradition! Pasta certainly existed in places other than Italy, however. The Chinese had been making it since at least 3000 B.C. And Greece claimed its share of the credit -- according to Greek mythology, the Greek God Vulcan invented a device that created long strings of dough. But what is pasta without tomato sauce? Well, the Europeans certainly had a chance to find out. It wasn't until 1519 that the explorer Cortez brought the first tomatoes back to Europe from the New World. And when tomatoes were first introduced, they were grown exclusively as a decorative plant. The tomato is a member of the nightshade family, and it was assumed that it was poisonous as well. (Actually, the leaves and stems are
toxic.) Eventually, it was discovered that tomatoes could be used as a food source, but it wasn't until the 18th
century that it became a popular food item. Thomas Jefferson can be credited with bringing pasta to the United States. When he served as Ambassador to France, he got a taste of this tasty dish, and he liked it so much that he ordered a pasta-making machine sent back to the U.S., the first "macaroni maker" in America. The first American commercial outfit for the production of pasta was run by Antoine Zerega, who opened his factory in Brooklyn in 1848. He dried his product on his roof in the sunshine, and powered his machinery by one horse, which he kept in the basement.