Penchant for PastaUse your noodle like many other Americans do.
By: Jeff Tiedeman,
If asked to pick just one food that you couldn’t live without, what would it be?
I would be hard pressed to single out just one. But for sure, pasta would be near the top of the list. I can’t imagine a world without pasta.
And after doing a little research, I don’t think many other Americans could either.
According to the American Pasta Report, a survey commissioned by the National Pasta Association, 84 percent of consumers consider pasta to be a healthy food and an important part of a well-balanced diet. And 77 percent of the more than 1,000 surveyed said they eat pasta at least once a week — a third of them having it three or more times.
Even more revealing is that sales of pasta products in the U.S. — including frozen and refrigerated pasta, canned pasta, soup mixes and prepared dinners — rose 5 percent last year to $6.4 billion, according to Kansas City, Mo.-based American Italian Pasta Co., the nation’s largest manufacturer of dry pasta. That comes after sales had been falling 1 percent to 2 percent annually for years, according to Carol Freysinger, spokeswoman for the National Pasta Association.
The increase in pasta consumption can be attributed partly to a struggling U.S. economy. More people are turning to casseroles, pasta salad, good old macaroni and cheese and soup to stretch their food dollars and as well as becoming more health-conscious.
So, with all of this pasta being consumed in the U.S., what is the most popular variety?
According to the report, spaghetti is the personal favorite of 40 percent of respondents, followed by lasagna (12 percent), macaroni and cheese (6 percent), fettuccine (6 percent), linguine (3 percent), elbows (3 percent), pasta salad (3 percent) and angel hair (2 percent.
To help recognize the importance of the pasta and durum wheat (the main ingredient in U.S.-produced pasta) industries to the state, the North Dakota Wheat Commission annually declares Pasta Lovers’ Week in North Dakota during the week including this past Sunday to coincide with World Pasta Day and National Pasta Month. (North Dakota produces two-thirds of the nation’s supply of pasta.)
Once again, the Wheat Commission is sponsoring the “Use Your Noodle Pasta Puzzle” contest (featured on this page along with four soup recipes from the NDWC). Readers who submit a correctly completed puzzle have a chance to win a “Premium Pasta from the Prairie” T-shirt from the Wheat Commission, a pasta server from the U.S. Durum Growers Association and pasta from Dakota Growers Pasta Co. and Philadelphia Macaroni Co.
Nutritionally, pasta is a low-fat, high-carbohydrate food. It’s very low in sodium, and nonegg varieties are cholesterol-free. Per cup, enriched pastas are an excellent source of folic acid, a good source of other essential nutrients, including iron and several B vitamins, and contain only 211 calories.
Also, as a food that is low on the Glycemic Index — low GI foods are digested more slowly — pasta provides a slow release of energy without spiking blood sugar levels.
And pasta also is one of the foods the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines recommends eating six to 11 servings of daily.
Can you live with that?
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.