October 25, 2023 – World Pasta Day turns 25. The first World Pasta Day was held in Naples in 1998, with the aim of publicising all the benefits of this delicious, healthy, nutritious, accessible and sustainable food, celebrating its history and looking forward to its central role in the global food scene of the future. Ever since, the event has been held on a yearly basis in different cities in Italy (Genoa, Rome, Naples, Milan) and around the world (Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Istanbul, New York, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, São Paolo, Dubai). Over these 25 years, pasta has undergone an enormous transformation in material terms and otherwise; it has been rejuvenated and adapted to diverse lifestyles with new types (from wholegrain to speciality pastas and gluten-free options) and shapes.
The figures tell us that the gamble of those early years has paid off. According to data from the IPO – International Pasta Organisation, global production today is almost 17 million tonnes (up 1.8% on 2021), nearly double the 9 million tonnes of 1998. And there are two constants: pasta is healthy and accessible to all. The star of countless recipes, with extraordinary variety and flavour, pasta is the no-waste food loved all over the world, the solution that’s both delicious and inexpensive
Here’s what’s happened in the past 25 years:
- World pasta production has almost doubled. In just 25 years, it has grown from 9 to 17 million tonnes. According to data from the IPO (International Pasta Organisation), there are 40 countries producing over 20,000 tonnes of pasta a year. The number of countries where per capita consumption exceeds 1 kilo a year has almost doubled (to 52, from 30). Consumption per capita in Italy is 23.2 kilos, compared with 17 in Tunisia, at second place in the list, with Venezuela third at 13.6 kilos.
- Pasta is increasingly a global food. It’s at home in restaurants all over the world, and a generation of cooks, looking to the future with a focus on simplicity, authenticity and glocal appeal, have found pasta the ideal point of contact between different cuisines and regions; what’s more, it’s free from cultural or religious restrictions.
- 2006 saw the founding of the IPO or International Pasta Organisation, a kind of “UN of pasta” whose mission is to tell the world about the benefits – nutritional and otherwise – of a pasta-based diet. A decisive boost came with the publication of “Healthy Pasta Meal”, a scientific document endorsed by nutritionists all over the world, which incorporates the latest evidence on the importance of the Mediterranean diet and pasta’s place within it.
- In 2010, UNESCO declared the Mediterranean diet an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. And as part of that diet, pasta plays a starring role. As demonstrated by various scientific studies, a healthy and balanced diet focusing mainly on a wide variety of plant-based foods helps to prevent common chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, eating disorders, obesity and cancer. Over time, and partly due to calls by nutritionists and health authorities for a healthier, more informed diet, the simplicity and frugal nature of dried pasta have become an incentive to consume it.
- In the past 25 years it has become increasingly sustainable. Pasta makers have responded to the new demands of global consumers by focusing on innovation and diversification: wholewheat, gluten-free, organic, fortified with vitamins, made with legumes and superfoods, quick-cooking etc. But the most important innovation can’t be seen on the plate. Over the years, thanks to improvements in processes and growers’ agreements that stipulate sustainability and good agricultural practices, pasta manufacturers have considerably reduced water use and CO2 emissions in their processes. This food has an extremely low environmental impact (the overall carbon footprint per portion is 1 m2). What’s more, pasta is used in countless waste-free recipes that can turn leftovers into substantial and delicious meals. Lastly, whether it’s wrapped in cardboard or plastic, pasta packaging is 100% recyclable.
- It has responded robustly to fake news and high-protein diets. Since 2002, the year in which the New York Times coined the term “carbophobia” and some 26 million Americans completely stopped eating pasta, bread and potatoes, many things have changed: several authoritative studies have proved that pasta does not lead to weight gain, but the contrary. A diet based on carbohydrates (in which pasta is rich) can prolong life expectancy, especially if it is part of a Mediterranean-style model. Carbophobia was followed by glutenphobia: advice to reduce or eliminate the consumption of pasta because of the presence of gluten, accused of making people ill or fat, was demolished by the international scientific community as baseless. Gluten is only harmful for individuals who suffer from coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity.
“This year we’re celebrating an important milestone that confirms pasta as an extraordinary product that brings joy and conviviality to the tables of millions worlwide every day”, says Carl Zuanelli, president of the IPO. “In the past 25 years, as producers, we’ve seen how chefs constantly reinterpret it, food experts talk about it, anthropologists hail its social, cultural and convivial role, and nutritionists recommend it as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Pasta is a universal food, packed with history and culture, and increasingly a symbol of a healthy diet, whose consumption is constantly evolving. Pasta has the ability to be the perfect food for everyone, a real food of the future, combining flavour and conviviality with an approach to food that’s based on wellbeing and sustainability“.
THE 25 PASTA RECIPES THAT WROTE THE STORY OF WORLD PASTA DAY
There are timeless recipes, like the perfect simplicity of a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce. Others evoke a particular decade, like penne with ham and cream; others, like Carbonara or Mac and cheese, are specialities that have travelled beyond borders. The pasta makers of the IPO are celebrating the silver anniversary of World Pasta Day with 25 iconic and innovative recipes that speak of the global, traditional and innovative soul of this universally loved food. From spaghetti aglio e olio to Japanese Wafū pasta or Arabic sweet vermicelli and egg Balaleet, it’s a forkful that encompasses the pasta lovers’ world.
Now in its 25th edition, World Pasta Day is sponsored by Unione Italiana Food and the International Pasta Organisation.