The Bottom Line: Delicious facts about pasta to slurp on!
The Full Story:
- The Chinese are on record as having eaten pasta as early as 5,000 B.C.
- Popular legend has it that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy following his exploration of the Far East in the late 13th century; however, we can trace pasta back as far as the fourth century B.C., where an Etruscan tomb showed a group of natives making what appears to be pasta. 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.
- Legend has it that noodles were first made by 13thcentury 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.
- There are over 600 types of pasta, and some have over 1300 names.
- 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.
- The average American consumes 20-pounds of pasta annually. This makes it the sixth highest food per capita in the country.
- The United States produces 4.4-billion pounds of pasta annually, making it the second largest pasta-producing nation. And yes, Italy is the largest.