How And Why Spaghetti Became The World's Favorite Pasta
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Almost every millennial has fond memories of rapping along to the Eight Mile soundtrack: "His palms are sweaty; his knees are weak; his arms are heavy; there's vomit on his sweater already; mom's spaghetti."

Spaghetti is one of the most popular comfort foods in the world; the slender noodle is sold everywhere, from microwave packs in grocery stores to hand-made one-pot pasta dishes served in fine dining restaurants.

But just how did the pasta get so popular? The short answer is that it’s because it’s been around for so long. The pasta is said to have been invented in the early 12th century as a long, thin noodle that was more similar to linguine than the spaghetti of today. It took several hundred years for noodles to adopt the typical cylindrical shape that you'd find in grocery stores today. The pasta only really took off in Italy in the 17th century as a depression food that was eaten through plagues and famines. Spaghetti remained the nation’s favorite budget food, beating out nearly every other form of pasta in the country for the title. Spaghetti was by far the easiest pasta to make, requiring just two ingredients, namely durum wheat flour and water. The presses required to make the noodles were inexpensive as well and were sold all over the country.

The pasta remained a pantry staple well into the 19th century, which led to Italians taking the noodle with them when they immigrated to America. Spaghetti would soon join the ranks of pizza and risotto as a bestseller in Italian restaurants in Boston and New York. News of the noodle’s popularity spread far and wide, and it wasn't long before several American entrepreneurs attempted to cash in on the phenomenon. The first and most successful of the lot was the Campbell Soup Company; the conglomerate had just acquired a French pasta company during the peak of the spaghetti craze, which would see the conglomerate launch several ready-to-eat pasta products under the Franco-American label. The most popular of these canned noodles was a product called "Spaghetti-Os," which consisted of circular noodles that were similar in thickness to spaghetti, suspended in a simple tomato sauce. American Italians were quick to cry sacrilege, but their thoughts fell on deaf ears: nearly every mother in the country would buy boxes of the stuff for their children, who found the food to be much easier to eat compared to regular spaghetti, which required the use of a fork and an amount of dexterity that most toddlers seemed to lack. This train of thought was masterfully depicted in a 1958 newspaper ad by the legendary pop artist Andy Warhol, called "Spaghetti Is So Slippery." The abstract piece depicted a plate of spaghetti with a spoon and a fork, meant to illustrate the supposed struggle the average American faced while trying to eat the noodle. The tinned pasta is still a best-selling item today, now sold under the Campbell name.

While Campbell's advertising campaign was a huge success, traditional pasta still held its own in the country. Several families and bachelors would resort to cooking packets of dried pasta when they had to make a meal for a guest; the noodle provided an excellent base for a dish that was sure to impress, all while requiring minimal effort. Due to the dish's commercial success, Italian-American restaurateurs created a new dish that was more suited to the American palate: spaghetti and meatballs. Early versions of the dish consisted of spaghetti that was prepared al dente and topped with a chunky tomato sauce that contained large herbed meatballs; these components would be simplified over time to allow for uniformity across restaurant chains. The dish was inspired by Italian pasta dishes that featured similar ingredients, albeit in a different form. Spaghetti puttanesca and arrabbiata both feature similar ingredients, but spaghetti has the mince incorporated directly into the sauce rather than as another component of the meal.

Asian countries were first introduced to the noodle by MNCs like Borges, Del Monte, and Barilla, which specialized in making dried pastas. The noodles that were introduced to the market were inexpensive and of high quality, which made them accessible to people from all levels of society. Most Asian households would proceed to make spaghetti dishes using endemic ingredients as opposed to making authentic Italian dishes. These preparations are still prevalent in these countries today, even after the introduction of authentic Italian sauces by the same companies.

India has a similar history with the dish; however, Indian foodies today are shifting toward more traditional recipes, owing to the ease of sourcing authentic Italian ingredients, particularly in large cities. Numerous eateries across the Indian subcontinent serve spaghetti, often in a fusion of Italian and Indian cooking styles.