In a rather old-fashioned book I found a reference to “Italian paste” in a context that clearly indicated pasta. I wondered if it was a typo, but checking the OED (updated June 2005) I learned it was an old-fashioned expression; under paste A. I. “A mixture of ingredients or components” we find:
c. Pasta. [...] Now rare.
1673 J. Ray Observ. Journey Low-countries 405 Paste made into strings..(which if greater they call Macaroni, if lesser Vermicelli) they cut in pieces and put in their pots as we do oat-meal.
1753 Chambers’s Cycl. Suppl., Macaron, the name of a sort of vermicelli, a paste made of flour and water, and formed into the shape of the barrel of a quill, or the guts of small fowls.
1843 Civilian & Galveston (Texas) City Gaz. 5 Apr. 1/2, 2 boxes ass’d Italian Pastes.
1861 Jrnl. Soc. Arts 9 129/1 The manufacture of ‘paste’ (or vermicelli, as it is called in England) continues to be one of the most flourishing trades in Genoa.
1957 Encycl. Brit. XIV. 544/2 Macaroni… The same substance in different forms is also known as vermicelli, pasta or Italian pastes, spaghetti, taglioni, fanti, etc.
In the 1861 quote, I would have assumed that ‘paste’ represented the Italian plural (and thus a pronunciation PAHS-tay) if the OED weren’t around to tell me otherwise. Is anyone familiar with this archaic usage? And is vermicelli still commonly used in the U.K.?