Fun Facts

  • The Chinese are on record as having eaten pasta as early as 5,000 B.C.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Marco Polo did not discover pasta. The ancient Italians made pasta much like we do today. Although Marco Polo wrote about eating Chinese pasta at the court of Kubla Khan, he probably didn't introduce pasta to Italy. In fact, there's evidence suggesting the Etruscans made pasta as early as 400 B.C. The evidence lies in a bas-relief carving in a cave about 30 miles north of Rome. The carving depicts instruments for making pasta - a rolling-out table, pastry wheel and flour bin. And further proof that Marco Polo didn't "discover" pasta is found in the will of Ponzio Baestone, a Genoan soldier who requested "bariscella peina de macarone" - a small basket of macaroni. His will is dated 1279, 16 years before Marco Polo returned from China.
  • Christopher Columbus, one of Italy's most famous pastaphiles, was born in October, National Pasta Month.
  • Legend has it that noodles were first made by 13th century German bakers who fashioned dough into symbolic shapes, such as swords, birds and stars, which were baked and served as bread.In the 13th century, the Pope set quality standards for pasta.
  • Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing macaroni to the United States. It seems that he fell in love with a certain dish he sampled in Naples, while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France. In fact, he promptly ordered crates of "macaroni," along with a pasta-making machine, sent back to the States.
  • The Spanish explorer Cortez brought tomatoes back to Europe from Mexico in 1519. Even then, almost 200 years passed before spaghetti with tomato sauce made its way into Italian kitchens.
  • The first American pasta factory was opened in Brooklyn, New York, in 1848, by a Frenchman named Antoine Zerega. Mr. Zerega managed the entire operation with just one horse in his basement to power the machinery. To dry his spaghetti, he placed strands of the pasta on the roof to dry in the sunshine.
  • During the 1980s, macaroni, which was traditionally considered a "blue-collar" down-home meal, was transformed into the more upscale "pasta." As more and more people began to have fun with it and romanticize it throughout the '60s and '70s, its image began to change along with its name.

Nutrition

  • Pasta is a good source of carbohydrates. It also contains protein. Carbohydrates help fuel your body by providing energy that is released slowly over time.
  • One cup of cooked spaghetti provides about 200 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrates, less than one gram of total fat, no cholesterol and only one gram of sodium when cooked without salt. Read more about pasta nutrition.

Cooking and Eating

  • All pasta is made by essentially the same equipment using the same technology. Also, in independent taste tests conducted by Consumer Reports, Cook's Illustrated and The Washington Post, U.S. pasta either was found superior to Italian imports or the judges were unable to discern a difference between them.
  • To cook one billion pounds of pasta, you would need 2,021,452,000 gallons of water - enough to fill nearly 75,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.
  • One billion pounds of pasta is about 212,595 miles of 16-ounce packages of spaghetti stacked end-to-end -- enough to circle the earth's equator nearly nine times.
  • Speaking of spaghetti...and meatballs: the Italians only ate meat a few times a month. So, when they came to America, where meat was so plentiful, they incorporated meat into their cooking more often, making meatballs an American invention.
  • Most pasta is made using wheat products mixed with water. Other types of pasta are made using ingredients such as rice, barley, corn, and beans.
  • Egg noodles contain egg; almost all other dry pasta shapes do not. By federal law, a noodle must contain 5.5 percent egg solids to be called a noodle. So without egg, a noodle really isn't a noodle.
  • Cooked al dente (al-DEN-tay) literally means "to the tooth," which is how to test pasta to see if it is properly cooked. The pasta should be a bit firm, offering some resistance to the tooth, but tender.
  • Pasta comes in many different colors. Most pasta is cream-colored, but some is made using spinach making it green, red pasta that is made using tomato, gray pasta that is made using squid ink, and some pasta is called "cellophane" because it becomes transparent when cooked.
  • The average person in Italy eats more than 51 pounds of pasta every year. The average person in North America eats about 15-1/2 pounds of pasta per year.

Production

  • Pasta is one of America’s favorite foods. In 2000, 1.3 million pounds of pasta were sold in American grocery stores. If you lined up 1.3 million pounds of 16 oz. spaghetti packages, it could circle the Earth’s equator almost nine times!
  • Top-quality pasta is made from durum wheat. According to the North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service, about 73% of the durum wheat grown in the U.S. is grown in North Dakota. American-grown durum wheat is considered among the best in the world and the pick of the crop is earmarked for domestic use, ensuring a finished pasta product second to none in the world.
  • Approximately 2.75 million tons of pasta is made in Italy each year, while the United States produces nearly 1.9 million tons per year
  • There are more than 600 pasta shapes produced worldwide.