14 Things You Didn't Know About Pasta

Whether we're twirling it on our forks or baking it into a creamy, cheesy American casserole, there's no denying that we love pasta. According to the National Pasta Association, Americans alone eat about 19 pounds per person per year. Of course the average Italian — who eats pasta daily — consumes about 56 pounds. Italians also make the most pasta in the world, producing nearly 3.5 million tons a year. Yet, despite our love of these starchy noodles, we'd be willing to bet our weight in dried penne that most people don't actually know very much about it.

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When we think of pasta, most of us picture the semolina flour-based noodle stocked on supermarket shelves in a colorful cardboard box, but pasta comes in a range of different varieties both dried and fresh. Fresh pasta can be found in the refrigerated section of stores; because it is made with little more than wheat flour and egg yolks, it is highly perishable. Dried pasta starts with a paste made of flour and water which is then passed through an extruder or pressed into molds to create various shapes. It is dried for several days at a low temperature, so that the moisture evaporates, making it shelf-stable. Dried pasta was made out of necessity — it traveled and stored well.  

Though pasta is traditionally (and most commonly) made with wheat flour, gluten-free varieties are available for those with allergies or sensitivities to the gluten found in wheat flour. Gluten-free pastas are typically made with rice, quinoa, or corn flours.

If all this talk of pasta is making you hungry, go put a big pot of well-salted water on to boil (and please, no oil — it'll just make the pasta sauce slide off the noodles) and read on. We've got 14 fun pasta facts to keep you busy until your noodles reach a perfect al dente.

Al Dente Pasta Keeps You Fuller Longertakes longer to digestAll Pastas and Sauces Are Not Interchangeable

When pasta is cooked al dente (which literally means "to the tooth" or "to the bite) it . Not only will that keep you fuller longer, it also helps the paste keep your blood sugar levels more stable.

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Part of the reason that there are so many shapes of pasta is that the weight, texture, size and shape of the pasta all contribute to the way that it holds onto sauce: basically, certain shapes of pasta are better paired with certain sauces than others. Creamy sauces, for example, cling well to long, flat strands, while short, tubular shapes are better paired with thick, chunky sauces.

Additional reporting by Recipe Editor Milagros Cruz.