Contrary to popular belief, pasta actually has its origins in ancient Greece and from there moved to Italy. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus, god of fire, volcanoes, and blacksmiths, is said to have created a tool which made ribbons of pasta. Ancient Greeks prepared a dish from pasta dough zimarika, meaning a dough of flour and water, cut into long strips, named laganon.
In ancient times, Greeks celebrated the life of the dead makaron by leaving at the graveside a dish made from pasta called makaria accompanied by olive oil and wine. A variation of this story is that a bowl of pasta dough, makaria, was placed in the hand of the departed to be used as payment for the ferryman Charon taking them across the river Styx on their way to Hades (underworld). The “mercy meal”, makaria, is still eaten today after Greek Orthodox funerals.
So, it seems that the ancient Greeks introduced pasta to Italy, not Marco Polo as commonly believed, probably through Naples, once a colony of the Greek Empire. Today, pasta production continues where Hephaestus left off, producing the tasty traditional Greek pasta. Each region has its favorite pasta, served with meat, vegetables, pulses, or cheese.
Before the large supermarket chains and big pasta factories reached Greece, most Greek pasta was made at the end of the summer and dried, ensuring there was plenty of food to feed large Greek families throughout the winter.
Greek mamas in villages bring their own ingredients, with which they produce their own pasta the way it was done years ago, with the family’s secret recipes. This is how it was in the old times; each village had its own small pasta factory, and all the mamas came there to make their own pasta. It is hard to find today, but a few factories still hold on to the traditional way.
Once the ingredients have been mixed and shaped, the mamas take the pasta home to dry it in the sun the way they used to do in the past, or they dry it for them overnight in industrial driers. In this delightful way, a wonderful, old, Greek tradition is kept alive.