Is Testaroli The World's Oldest Pasta Shape?

A whole sheet of Testaroli.

Short answer
Testaroli is often called the world's oldest pasta, although its texture and cooking method mean that many people consider it to be an ancient style of bread.

Long answer
The fact that Wikipedia describes testaroli as "bread or pasta" tells you all you need to know about the confusion surrounding this intriguing food.

We'd never even heard of testaroli before stumbling across it at the premium Italian retailer Eataly on a trip to the stunning city of Florence. There was no way we could leave the store without grabbing this beautiful, crêpe-style object, even though at the time we had no idea what it was, let alone what to do with it.

As it transpires, food historians still can't agree on exactly what testaroli is. For some, it is the oldest form of pasta that was enjoyed by the ancient Etruscan civilisation, which dates back as far as 900 BC. For others, it's one of the oldest forms of bread.

What we do know for sure is that testaroli is made from nothing more than flour, water, and salt, and that its name is derived from testo, the circular cast-iron pan in which it is cooked. We also know that it is native to the northern Italian region of Liguria, which also happens to be where pesto is from.

Perhaps the fact that testaroli was traditionally served with pesto is the main argument for it being an early form of pasta. It certainly is a stunning combination, one that we wholeheartedly recommend, but we must admit that for us, it is far more reminiscent of bread than pasta.

Quite honestly, we could care less about what to label this delicious food. It is completely customisable, and we've enjoyed it simply dipped in good-quality olive oil, as the base for a grilled sandwich and, of course, smothered in pesto.

How to Make Testaroli
Testaroli is so simple to make that you hardly need a recipe. Simply whisk together equal amounts of plain flour and water with a generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes. Add a little more flour or water as necessary to make it the same consistency as a light pancake batter. Although it is not traditional, some people swear by adding a pinch of baking powder to the mixture to make it a little more fluffy and less dense.

Cook in a cast-iron skillet exactly as you would a crêpe. Traditionally, testaroli would only be cooked on one side, resulting in one side being crispy and the other being soft. Despite this, we prefer the texture when it's nicely golden on both sides.

How to Serve Testaroli
There are no hard-and-fast rules about how to eat, or what to serve with, testaroli. If you want to treat it like pasta, the classic preparation is to chop the cooked crêpe into diamond shapes and dip them into boiling water for a few seconds to soften. Serve with a hearty dollop of pesto or a meaty ragù and plenty of freshly grated parmesan.

Alternatively, testaroli is equally at home eaten as if it were a focaccia. Use it to dip into olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or top with cheese and charcuterie for a hearty brunch.