September 8, 2011, Food, Food & Groceries, Grains, Pasta & Side Dishes, Notes

10 useless facts about pasta

10 more or less useless but highly entertaining facts about pasta including BBC’s hilarious ‘spaghetti grows on trees’ hoax.

Federico Fellini is quoted for saying that ‘Life is a combination of magic and pasta.’ Here are some of the useless facts that have brought the magic of pasta to life.

Pasta originates in China or Greece, but it’s a myth that the concept of combining flour and water was brought to Italy by Marco Polo upon his return from China in the 13th Century. Utensils used for pasta making have been found in Etruscan tombs and South Italians claim it was introduced to Sicily by the Arabs. Still, Italy can claim the King of pasta title due to its strong affinity to the territory, the development of manufacturing techniques and culinary combinations.

In the mid-eighteenth century, “macaroni” referred to an overblown hairstyle as well as to the dandy wearing it. The expression was coined after young English aristocrats returned home from a grand tour of Italy bringing with them foreign affectations.

At first, dry pasta was a luxury item in Italy because of high labor costs, as the semolina had to be kneaded for a long time. Only after the industrial revolution in Naples, when a mechanical process allowed for large scale production of dry pasta, did it become affordable and popular among the common people.

Founder of one of the world’s leading pasta makers, Pietro Barilla, is said to have dusted flour on the sleeve of his black suit on a daily basis. If he could blow the flour off without a trace, it meant that the flour was dry and finely grained and perfect for pasta making.

April 1 in 1957, the BBC made everyone believe that spaghetti grows on trees. At the time, spaghetti was considered by many as an exotic delicacy. The spoof programme explained how severe frost can impair the flavour of the spaghetti and how each strand of spaghetti always grows to the same length. This is believed to be one of the first times television was used to stage an April Fools Day hoax.

There are more than 600 pasta shapes worldwide, but in Italian pasta names don’t sound particularly appetizing.  Spaghetti means strings, vermicelli are small worms, farfalle are butterflies, orechiette small ears, linguine little tongues and ravioli little turnips.

Italians never use a spoon and a fork when eating spaghetti. This is an American habit. In Italy you simply twirl a fork against the dish.

Every Italian from newborns to elders eat 26 kilo pasta a year. Venezuelans come in second with only half that amount.

The value of Italian pasta exports has doubled over the last ten years to 1.8 billion euro in 2009, according to figures from Coldiretti. One of every four plates of pasta consumed anywhere in the world is Italian. More than 6 000 companies and 30 000 people work in the Italian pasta industry.

October 25th is World Pasta Day.

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September 8, 2011 12:41 pm

Actually, eating spaghetti with fork and spoon is a common habit in many places of southern Italy, even if it is not suggested by the rules of etiquette :)
By the way, did you already know this Pasta Infographic? Thanks for sharing this interesting article!

September 08 2011 13:02 pm


I've never seen the spoon with spaghetti in italy, though I'm mostly in the southern parts of the country, but thanks for putting it straight. And thank you also for the comprehensive Infographic. It's really impressing:)

September 8, 2011 3:40 pm


I didn’t realize how little I knew about pasta until I read this. I had no idea there were 600 different kinds and the names are horrible – little tongues and small worms? Uggh.

September 8, 2011 6:18 pm

LindyLouMac in Italy

Not all useless, in fact I already knew some of these fascinating facts. :)

September 9, 2011 2:16 am

Stephanie – The Travel Chica

Informative AND amusing :-)

September 9, 2011 3:21 am


As far as I am concerned one can never have to much information about pasta, even if it is useless. :) Thanks for sharing!

September 9, 2011 9:59 pm

Cathy Sweeney

Cool facts and that video is such a classic! Thanks for including it here.

September 12, 2011 10:23 am


Fun facts these! I learned of a new type of pasta recently – strozzapreti (priest strangler). Not a very appealing name that either.

March 29, 2012 3:52 am

Mario Novati

Actually Marco Polo never arrive in China but stop much before . In any case, 25 years before Marco Polo was born, pasta was served in Sicilia. Five years before Marco Polo left La Serenissima Eepublic of Venice, in Genova they was selling “large maccheroni” (or dried rigatoni) to the sailors.

January 12, 2014 6:05 pm

Martin C

I have to agree, unlikely you will ever see a true Italian using a spoon for spaghetti in Italy although you will see spoons in many tourist restaurants. It’s a pure Italian-American thing. In the early days of Italian immigration pasta was served exclusively on plates because that was what was available. The flat surface was useless for winding pasta around a fork, unlike the side of a bowl. That’s why the spoon was introduced by the Italian community here in New York. It caused a stir when immigrants and their descendants returned to visit Italy because it was considered bad etiquette back home.

January 15 2014 18:24 pm


What a great explanation for the spoon difference. Thank you for sharing this piece of information.

September 29, 2014 4:06 pm

jasmine 234889203

Not useless good for facts and got a* on homework using facts .

October 05 2014 18:28 pm

Mette Vaabengaard

Glad to hear that, Jasmine.

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