Marco Polo and the Legend of Pasta…
Yes, Chinese people have been consuming pasta for a very long time. Since 2000 BC in fact. You may also have heard the legend where Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from China long ago but that really is no more than a legend or tale. In other words, it is not true! A Greek physician produced some works in the 2nd century CE that told of something he called itrion. Itrion was made from water and flour and according to records of the Jerusalem Talmud, it was a kind of boiled dough. Sound like pasta yet?
Well, Isho bar Ali was a 9th century Syrian physician and he developed a dictionary that defined itriyya (formerly itrion). It said that the substance was made with semolina and formed into string-like pasta shapes that were dried out before being cooked. Now it should sound like the pasta we know and enjoy today.
Trivia: Is spaghetto the singular of spaghetti?
There are over 600 different shapes of pasta in the world…
…and other bits and pieces of Pasta Trivia…
- Mark your calendar – October 25th is World Pasta Day!
- The Pope laid out standards for the quality of pasta in the 13th century.
- It has been said that pasta was brought to the United States by Thomas Jefferson after he tasted a pasta dish while in France and loved it. When he returned to the United States he apparently ordered macaroni by the crate and bought himself a pasta making machine.
- Spaghetto is the singular form of spaghetti. Pasta literally means paste in the Italian language. So if you are eating just one piece you can say, “I am eating a spaghetto.” Actually, the use of spaghetto is quite rare because the plural spaghetti is accepted as a singular form (much as graffiti and zucchini) of speech.
- Gravy is not just a brown, meat based sauce to throw on beef, pork, or poultry. It is also a term sometimes used by Italians for a tomato sauce that is prepared by simmering it for a long time.
- For the most part, Americans are the only people who use a fork with a spoon to twirl and eat their spaghetti. Most other cultures simply use a fork and twirl it against the dish.
- The British Broadcasting Corporation made everyone believe that spaghetti grows on trees…in 1957…On April Fools Day!
- Spaghetti isn’t just a food! The word spaghetti is also used in computer programming for a kind of complicated control structure.
- Spaghetti junction is a term used to refer to roads or on/off ramps that are twisted and intertwined, like a plate of spaghetti.
- Meatballs were invented in America, not Italy. Italians in Italy didn’t eat meat often but when they came to America, meat was much easier to get so they did new things with it.
- Sailors and fishermen were the first to cook marinara sauce, inventing it because after being at sea all day, it is quick and easy to make.
- Italians generally eat about 65 pounds of pasta every year – each! Americans usually only eat about 15 pounds each every year.
- Many people have heard that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from China. That is false! To find out how and where pasta originated, check out A History of Pasta in our “Background” section of this website.
- Pasta is not actually fattening. The reason pasta can cause weight gain is because of the amount of carbohydrates in it. Pasta has almost 40 times more grams of carbohydrates than grams of fat. So if you eat a lot of pasta, be sure to do a lot of working out too!
- Eating pasta can help you Relax! It’s true. The carbohydrates in pasta cause your body to produce a chemical called serotonin, which helps you to relax.
- Gnocchi is almost always listed with pasta dishes on a menu but it’s not really pasta. Gnocchi is made from potatoes or even bread crumbs, unlike pasta which is mainly made from wheat and water. Gnocchi is even cooked differently than pasta.
- In some South American countries Italian food is very common. In fact, gnocchi is traditionally eaten every month, on the 29th day. This is because gnocchi does not cost much to make and the 29th was the day before workers would be paid for the month and most people were poor by then. It was even tradition for some to put a bill under their plates as they ate in hopes of having good luck and bringing in more money.
- A single serving of pasta is only a half of a cup of pasta – cooked!
- Arabs are said to have been the people to invent dried pasta. Italians liked their pasta fresh.
- Not all shapes of pasta are used all over Italy. There are some shapes of pasta that are only used in certain regions.