Pasta: Anybody who knows pasta knows that Marco Polo did not bring it to Italy from the Far East. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people putting things on the Internet that "don't know diddly" about pasta, so the legend persists.

In fact, dura pasta in its various shapes and sizes (including spaghetti) has been a staple food around the Mediterranean for thousands of years and first seems to have appeared in the Middle East, where dura wheat was developed from seeds of wild grasses. The process of drying or parching and then grinding wheat, moisturizing the flour, adding salt (and sometimes eggs), and then rolling, cutting, and drying the product was a commonly known way of preventing germination, spoilage, and infestation in many Mediterranean countries.

Some Mediterranean people probably ate fresh pasta, too, but Ancient Romans appear to have preferred bread -- carbonized wheat, flour, and bread were found in the digs at Pompeii and Herculanum, but no pasta. (Bread probably first happened by accident when naturally occurring yeasts contaminated somebody's pasta mixture and they decided to cook the bubbly mass anyway.)

There are, of course, good places on the Internet to find accurate pasta information. The good folks that run the National Museum of Pasta Foods on Piazza Scanderberg here in Rome provide one of the best. Their home page, called "Professional Pasta", is at,

and there are links to the Museum at

and to a page on the origins of Pasta at

Another pasta history survey is at (Virtually the same text is presented at several other "pasta history" web sites. Nobody credits the any other site, so it's hard to tell who is plagiarizing whom.)

P.S.: Marco, by the way, made no claim that he had discovered or brought back pasta. What he wrote in his famous book of "Travels" was that he saw people eating pasta that was almost the same as the pasta that was already made from wheat in Italy. The clear implication was that the Far Eastern version was made of something other than wheat, perhaps rice. There are also other remarkable misstatements on the net, including the baldly false assertion at one web site that there is no Fettuccini Alfredo in Italy. The Alfredo restaurant chain, which started in Rome in 1914 and has one of its US franchises in Disney World, would certainly be surprised.

So how can you tell if an Internet pasta site is credible? It's easy. Just see what they say about Marco Polo or about Fettuccini Alfredo.