Pasta has been a staple in the Canadian diet for generations, and you probably think you know all there is to know about pasta, right? Wrong! Here are 11 fun facts you probably didn’t know about these delicious Italian noodles — including *spoiler alert* the fact that Italy wasn’t even the first country where pasta was enjoyed.
Pasta Was First Eaten in China, Not Italy
We typically think of pasta as being invented in Italy, but the first recorded reports of people eating pasta came from China, as early as 5,000 B.C. Legend has it that famed explorer Marco Polo introduced the noodles to Italy in the 12th century, but historical records indicate the pre-Roman Etruscan civilization had already been making their own pasta (smashing the grain with rocks and mixing it with water to create dough) by 500 B.C.
Tomato Sauce Came Later
People had been eating pasta for thousands of years before anyone ever thought to add tomato sauce. This is mainly because tomatoes are not native to Europe, and weren’t introduced to the continent until Spanish explorer Cortez brought tomatoes from Mexico to Europe in 1519. Tomatoes and pasta soon became an iconic combination in Italy, and it was only a matter of time before meatballs were thrown into the mix.
600 Different Shapes
According to the International Pasta Organization, there are more more than 600 different shapes of pasta produced throughout the world.
Thomas Jefferson Brought Pasta to America
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is credited with being the first person to introduce pasta to America, back in 1789.
Italians Eat the Most Pasta
As you’d expect, Italy is the country that eats the greatest amount of pasta worldwide. As you might not expect, however, the #2 and #3 countries that eat the most pasta are Venezuela and Tunisia. Who knew?
How Much Pasta Do Italians Eat?
The International Pasta Organization claims that if Italians ate their average yearly amount of pasta in spaghetti shape (rather than the numerous other varieties of pasta shapes), they would eat approximately 600 million kilometres of spaghetti — enough noodles to wrap around the planet 15,000 times.
America's Favourite Pasta Is...
A 2013 Barilla World Pasta Day survey found that Americans’ three favourite pasta varieties, in order, are spaghetti, penne and rotini.
Different Meanings of the Word 'Pasta'
The word ‘pasta’ actually has its origins in Greek and Latin and literally means “barley porridge” in Greek, and “dough pastry cake” in Latin. In Italian, however, the word means “paste” due to the way pasta is made, primarily by mixing water and flour along with other ingredients, such as eggs and olive oil.
Eating Pasta Makes You Happy
Eating pasta will make you happier! It’s true — the carbohydrates in pasta increase the body’s production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that scientists believe trigger feelings of happiness and well-being.
Different Sauces Require Different Pasta
Not all pastas are meant to be enjoyed with all sauces. Long, flat pasta such as fettuccine and linguine are best paired with creamy sauces, which cling better to that particular pasta shape. Thicker, chunkier tomato sauces go better with pasta sporting a short, tubular or spiral shape, like rotini and fusilli.
Spaghetti Grows on Trees?
Pasta was an intricate part of television’s very first April Fool’s Day hoax. Back on April 1, 1957, the BBC aired a faux documentary claiming that spaghetti grew on trees — a whopper that millions of gullible British viewers swallowed hook, line and sinker when they saw bogus footage of women harvesting noodles from spaghetti trees in Switzerland.
Brent Furdyk is a freelance writer in Vancouver.