Pasta carbonara, whether it be fettucine carbonara, papardelle, or angel hair, is said to have been invented as a hearty way to feed Italian miners coming back from a long day at work. The guanciale pork jowl was a cheap-ish cut, the eggs and cheese were plentiful, and the black pepper apparently at that time was just soot from the mines. This doesn’t sound very good but after work people didn’t ask question, they just took a bowl, ate it, and realized it was delicious. Why hadn’t this been invented earlier?
Why hadn’t this been invented earlier is a great question, I could say the same for pasta, or the alternating current. I could also say the same for garlic and oil, except as far as anyone knows, garlic and oil are as old as time itself. Once the two are combined, the only addition needed it a good steak or piece of fish and some kind of vegetable. Soup, salad, and a drink are ok but in the pasta, nothing else is needed but garlic and oil, and some salted starchy water too. That’s it though. So people really like the garlic and oil on their bread, and naturally they liked it on their pasta too. No surprises here.
With the simple sauces and the carbonara, people could have been alright, they were stoked and eating pasta pretty much every day, morning, afternoon, and night. A few years into the pasta craze, however, there was a bumper crop of tomatoes, and I mean bumper, like all the tomatoes were bumping into each other. Once harvesting was done, people ate many tomatoes, but still some went so soft they could not be cut. Once they were no longer appetizing, the tomatoes were mixed with garlic and oil to make them better again, and better they were. Some decorative sense was given to placing nice basil leaves on top, and one of the best tasting sauces ever (his sauce in fact was the mother to many in France as well). The pasta craze and the tomato sauce craze were on a collision course, and the tomato sauce was certainly one to hold its own, as we see it used today in many non-pasta situations.