The Chinese were making a noodle-like food as early as 3000 B.C. and popular legend has it that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy following his exploration of the Far East in the late 13th century.
In reality pasta can be traced back as far as the fourth century B.C., when an Etruscan tomb showed a group of natives making what appears to be pasta. Greek mythology suggests that the Greek God Vulcan invented a device that made strings of dough (the first spaghetti!). Pasta is not fattening. According to USDA's Handbook 8-20, a 1/2 cup serving of cooked pasta (spaghetti) contains a mere 99 calories, less than half a gram of fat, and less than 5 milligrams of sodium, of course it depends what sauce you have with it and how much of it.
If you eat too much of any food, you can gain weight. According to The American Pasta Report, a survey commissioned by the NPA, among the reasons cited for pasta's increased popularity are its nutritional value, taste and convenience. Eighty-four percent of consumers consider pasta to be a healthy food and an important part of a well-balanced diet. In fact, 77 percent of the 1,003 Americans surveyed said they eat pasta at least once a week, while a third eat it three or more times a week. What's more, consumers who describe themselves as health conscious are more likely than others to eat pasta three or more times a week.
Pasta made its way to the New World through the English, who discovered it while touring Italy. But it was Thomas Jefferson who is credited with bringing the first "Maccheroni" machine to America in 1789 when he returned home after serving as ambassador to France.
There are so many sizes and shapes of pasta available, and so many great pasta recipes, that you can serve pasta every day for a year and never make it the same way twice!
A few tips for Healthy Living
The National Pasta Association offers these tips and meal solutions to make healthy and quick cooking a reality.
When creating an impromptu pasta dish, remember that "less is more" and limit the number of ingredients that you use. Oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and hot pepper flakes is one delicious combination.
Be creative! Toss pasta with a little vegetable oil, tomato or broth for a simple sauce.
Try a no-cook sauce by marinating tomatoes, chopped fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves in a little oil. Toss with hot pasta for a quick, delicious meal.
Keep fresh herbs on hand as a quick and easy way to add a lot of flavour. Basil, which has a very fresh, delicate flavour, is best added to sauces at the last minute to maximize its flavour. Rosemary is woody, so it's especially suited to cream sauces and earthy ingredients, like mushrooms. Because sage is so pungent, it stands up well in heartier pasta dishes with veal and pork.
Use a blender or a juicer to create your own combinations of vegetable purees. Then just bring to a simmer with your favourite herbs and spices and toss with pasta.
Instead of meat, try adding vegetables to a light tomato sauce for a plenty of flavour and crunch.
Add leftover pasta to your favourite soup. If you use dry pasta, simmer the soup for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
Use fruit to balance spicy dishes. Tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapple temper hot flavours, and balance and brighten, as well. Apples work well with curries, and bananas add a delicious counterpoint to hot chilli peppers.
Double your favourite recipes, and freeze the extra servings for later use. This works especially well with sauces and baked pasta dishes like lasagne.
Use only small amounts of vegetable oils, margarine and vegetable cooking spray when preparing pasta dishes.
When making pasta dishes, be sure to choose a pasta shape and sauce that complement each other. Thin, delicate pastas like angel hair or thin spaghetti, should be served with light, thin sauces. Thicker pasta shapes, like fettuccine, work well with heavier sauces. Pasta shapes with holes or ridges like mostaccioli or radiatore, are perfect for chunkier sauces.
Whether you want something elegant or casual, for two or 20, pasta is perfect!