From an English-speaking competition at Beijing in 2005, a contestant claimed that spaghetti came from China.

The contestant said that Marco Polo lived in China for 20 years. He learned making noodles there and then brought the knowledge back to Europe.

Is that true?

  • 3
    Please provide a timecode. Note that one contestant isn't terribly notable. If you can provide other examples of the claim, it would help. – Oddthinking Jul 25 '17 at 7:36

This is a story that is passed around, but it is most likely false. It's mentioned in the Wikipedia article on pasta's history.

This news article gives some more angles on why it's most likely not true but also notes that pasta might have been invented in China. In my opinion, pasta is not that hard to invent.


Unfortunately I cannot give you a precise reference, but once I read an article on the history of pasta and spaghetti. It was on Le Journal du CNRS, which is the official monthly magazine of the same institution, the French scientific research national council.

The authors of the article traced the origin of spaghetti pasta, or at least its first documented occurrences (I have forgot if they were remnants or pictorial evidences) in Persia. Towards west, pasta moved along the routes of maritime traffics, and production of pasta is documented in Cyprus. From there, genoese fleet and merchants brought it to Genoa and the regions nowadays known as Riviera Ligure di Ponente and Côte Azur (the latter is nowadays France). Imperia, a genoese town near the border with France, became the main centre for pasta production, a fact which, though recent troubles, persisted until current days. Pasta production spread then to rest of Italy.

Pasta was made and preserved in Europe well prior of Marco Polo.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • Sorry, this answer does not meet site standards. Can you add references, and do something about the wall of text – Jan Doggen Jul 27 '17 at 7:23
  • @Jan Doggen. Just I have mentioned it because at least it is coming from author(s) who do research on history. Someone can delete it or ban me. I do not see which standard is met by mentioning Wikipedia, or give link to an article which is googlable. Also in my opinion pasta is not that difficult to invent, if this makes the answer of high standard. It seems so. – Alchimista Jul 27 '17 at 8:23
  • I have rolled back jour answer to your previous version. That contained the most information and the least non-essential text. Thanks for editing. I tried to find the CNRS journal you mentioned but could not find it. It may have been issue 192 from January 2006. – Jan Doggen Jul 27 '17 at 9:53
  • Jan 2006 makes sense. At that time I have been indeed in France. – Alchimista Jul 27 '17 at 12:58
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasta and fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A2tes_alimentaires are quite different. Just as readings they can be interesting, anyway. – Alchimista Jul 27 '17 at 17:50

According to Culinary archaeology: Millet noodles in Late Neolithic China Nature 437, 967-968 (13 October 2005), basically, yes, noodles from "Lajia archaeological site (35° 49' 40" N, 102° 51' 15" E) is located on a terrace on the upper reaches of the Yellow River in northwestern China" have been carbon dated as being 4000 years old.

There is a photograph of the 4000 year old noodles in the article, with the caption:

Noodles dating to 4,000 years ago, shown here on top of an in-filled sediment cone and revealed after the inverted earthenware bowl containing them was removed. Scale bar, 1 cm

The article adds:

Unlike modern Italian pasta and Asian noodles, which are generally made from durum wheat (tetraploid) and bread wheat (hexaploid), respectively, the prehistoric noodles show no evidence that wheat, barley or other non-grass plants were used to supply their ingredients. Our findings support the belief that early plant domestication and food production relied on millet crops10, 11, 12 in the semi-arid Loess Plateau region of China.

Overall, there is good evidence that the oldest elongated noodles are from China, but noodles were already know in Europe before Marco Polo.

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