Presidents Day Reflection: Founding Fathers Love Pasta Too

On this Presidents Day we reflect that indeed a holiday is in order to celebrate our Founding Fathers and the men that have heretofore lead this great nation throughout its illustrious history. With that said, did you know that we can pretty much guarantee that unless there was a secretly gluten free leader-of-the-free-world,  pasta has been on the presidential diet since the inception of the United States. The proof comes straight from the journals of Thomas Jefferson.

Importing European traditions

Our famously multi-talented, renaissance man-executive officer, was not just an architect, writer, intellectual, but in addition he had an avid interest in winemaking, as well as pasta production. During his ambassadorial work in France, Jefferson became very acquainted with the fruits of Europe’s culture, artistic and gastronomic, and he sought to transplant these interests to America. His efforts lead him to important Italian plants such as apricots, olive trees and grapes, for his own gardening and wine production on his homestead in Virginia: Monticello (Italian for ‘little mountain.’)

Jefferson’d drawing of a ‘maccaroni’ machine with notes. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A pupil of Jefferson’s, William Short, wrote to the future president that he had procured a “mould for making maccaroni” in Naples, and would subsequently have it shipped to his mentor. In hand written notes by Jefferson (image included) we can see this pasta machine is much like our modern day industrial extrusion pasta makers, which are the kind we use at our restaurant. Jefferson wrote:

“The best maccaroni in Italy is made with a particular sort of flour called Semola, in Naples: but in almost every shop a different sort of flour is commonly used; for, provided the flour be of a good quality, and not ground extremely fine, it will always do very well.”

Jefferson was most likely not the first to introduce macaroni to America, there are records of his purchases of pasta products from a John Sartori of Trenton (1809). However, Jefferson did have a small hand perhaps in popularizing it by serving it to dinner guests during his presidency

Thomas Jefferson’s surviving pasta recipe

The science of “making macaroni” has not changed much over the centuries. Good, hard semolina flour, fresh ingredients, the power of forced extrusion machinery and old world know-how will create the allure and irresistible taste of fresh made pasta. A formula for drawing in the everyday dinner guest or the most V.I.P. statesman alike. As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, we are endowed with certain ‘unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ So, declare yourself free eat pasta on Presidents Day too, in honor of the foresight of one of our greatest leaders. Included below, is a surviving pasta recipe held by Thomas Jefferson that mirrors all the qualities of our fresh pasta techniques. I guess some things never go out of style.

TJ’s surviving pasta recipe.

6 eggs. yolks & whites.
2 wine glasses of milk
2 lb of flour
a little salt
work them together without water, and very well.
roll it then with a roller to a paper thickness
cut it into small peices which roll again with the hand into long slips, & then cut them to a proper length.
put them into warm water a quarter of an hour.
drain them.
dress them as maccaroni.
but if they are intended for soups they are to be put in the soup & not into warm water

Source: “Maccaroni Recipe and Press Design,” n.d., Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Manuscript available online (see image 2 for recipe).

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