When you think of Italian cuisine, pasta is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Buon Appetito!
But while we think of pasta as a culturally Italian food, it is likely the descendant of Asian noodles.
The way that pasta reached Europe remains unclear, though there are many theories. Some believe that nomadic Arabs are responsible for bringing early forms of pasta westward. Others look to Marco Polo. The Venetian explorer left for Asia in the Middle Ages, spending more than two decades trekking the Silk Road.
One of the things Polo claimed to have discovered in China, and brought back to Italy, is pasta. This was among the many claims printed in his book, "Il Milione."
However, his original script was subsequently lost. Various authors picked up the task of rewriting it, and their collaborative efforts can be found in "The Travels of Marco Polo."
A passage in that book briefly mentions Marco's introduction to a plant that produced flour (possibly a "breadfruit tree"). As PBS' History Kitchen notes, "The Chinese used this plant to create a meal similar to barley flour.
"The barley-like meal Polo mentioned was used to make several pasta-like dishes, including one described as 'lagana' (lasagna)."
However, reminding listeners that "Polo's original text no longer exists," the History Kitchen adds that "the book relies heavily on retellings by various authors and experts.
"This, combined with the fact that pasta was already gaining popularity in other areas of Italy during the 13th century, makes it very unlikely that Polo was the first to introduce pasta to Italy." (source: http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/uncover-the-history-of-pasta/)
Indeed, Polo's "Il Milione" came to be known as "The Million Lies." On his deathbed, Polo was asked whether or not the account was true. Marco stood by his work, adding that he had even seen things which he had neglected to mention.