25 October 2022 Off By Pastaria

Rome, 19 October, 2022 (Press release Unione Italiana Food) – In a world that keeps demanding more (doubling its total consumption in 10 years, from 9 to almost 17 million tons) and calls it noodles, nudel, pâte, massa, fidios, macarrão… wherever you eat pasta you think of Italy. We are the largest consumers, with around 23 kilos per capita per year. What’s more, as the biggest producers, serving it across 5 continents (in more than 2,000 certified restaurants, according to Fipe), we are the ones sharing it with the rest of the world: in 2021, 61% of national production of penne, fusilli & co. was destined to travel abroad. We are talking about 2.2 million tons, essentially 75 million portions of Italian pasta that are being served up every day in houses and restaurants in almost 200 countries. But is it true that they don’t know how to cook it abroad?

In honour of World Pasta Day 2022 (25 October), a study by Unione Italiana Food was carried out in Italian restaurants abroad to reveal the spirit of global pasta lovers through the eyes of those serving it daily. Dispelling some prejudices and false myths, from over-cooking to recipes that we would never find on Italian menus.

Before the pandemic, the Economist crowned Italian cuisine (where pasta is king) as “the most influential in the world”, ahead of both Japanese and French cuisine. In 2022, CNN’s Top 30 “Italian dishes that everyone should try at least once in their lives” includes 10 pasta recipes. And today the Unione Italiana Food study, carried out in collaboration with FIC – Federazione Italiana Cuochi (the Italian federation of chefs) and ITA – Italian Trade Agency, reveals how Italian pasta is being consumed around the world. The study involves interviews with 60 Italian chefs and restaurateurs working in Germany, France, the UK, the USA, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, all of which represent the backbone and future of Italian pasta exports. 

Pasta consumption on the rise in 8 out of 10 restaurants abroad. France serves the most generous portions

According to the study by Unione Italiana Food, consumption of pasta increased in 82% of the restaurants surveyed, (highest peaks in Japan and France), confirming a trend that we had already seen in home consumption, during and after lockdown. As a matter of fact, 67% of restaurateurs (even 80% in France and Germany) believe that pasta plays an important role in determining the success of a restaurant. A large 50% of pasta consumed in restaurants is in long dried formats, such as Spaghetti, Linguine, or Bucatini, which is most importantly smooth. 

Cooked according to traditional standards (67%, with aficionados especially in France and Japan), in boiling water over a heat source for the stated amount of time, then drained and seasoned or (30%) cooked risotto style (i.e., cooked in the pan together with the sauce). Virtually unknown, – 2% in the US only, – is what’s known as passive cooking (boiling over a heat source for a few minutes before removing the heat and leaving in the water to cook until draining). Interesting fact: 22% of restaurateurs serve maxi-portions of over 100 grams (as much as 60% in unsuspecting France).

8 out of 10 restaurants serve their pasta al dente. And real regional recipes beat “adapted” recipes… 

To make up for it, the philosophy of al dente pasta, or rather cooking it the Italian way, has also established itself abroad. This was confirmed by 82% of the cooks surveyed. In France and the USA, pasta is cooked al dente in virtually all restaurants. While 18%, with peaks of 40% in Japan, cater to local taste that sometimes prefers it overcooked. 

There are also few compromises linked to local customs: 55% of restaurants serve regional Italian recipes, 31% “recreate” tradition and only 14% believe that glocal is the way to go. Even recipes that have little to do with Made in Italy disappear in 73% of restaurants.

The Mediterranean model, a benchmark for most restaurants

This tells us that the approach to pasta is traditional or at most tradition revisited for 65% of the restaurants. The space for creative and avant-garde cuisine starring pasta is very limited. And Mediterranean tradition is unsurpassed, inspiring 53% of restaurateurs (and as many as 9 out of 10 restaurateurs in the United Arab Emirates).

For 42% of the sample, the ultimate value of pasta, even in the long term, is simplicity. In this regard, Spaghetti with tomato sauce remains second to none. Although 33% (80% in France) favour the concept of health and well-being. Only 1 out of 10 restaurateurs (11%, which goes up to 30% in the US) talks about the green soul of pasta.

Felicetti: “Pasta makers and restaurateurs spread the pleasure and joy of Mediterranean food around the world”

Riccardo Felicetti, President of Unione Italiana Food’s Pastai Italiani: “We cannot presume to explain how best to cook or season a food that has been adopted all over the world. But today more than 60% of pasta produced in Italy is exported, compared with 48% in 2000 and 5% in 1955… If Italian pasta enjoys such success abroad and is so positively received, it is surely thanks to the centuries-old know-how of Italian pasta experts. And to those who, in Italian restaurants around the world, bring out its best in dishes that convey the pleasure and joy of Mediterranean dining. Among those interviewed, one in 3 chefs also told us that every time they make a pasta dish, they think about their mother or grandmother’s instructions. Can this combination of knowledge and love be the secret to Italian pasta? There is no doubt that, today, even in this difficult and uncertain present, pasta symbolises a moment of attainable and daily happiness”.

Anti-crisis pasta: a tasty and wholesome dish for a family of 4 for just over 2 euros 

On the subject of everyday life, the repercussions of a pandemic, geopolitics, rising living costs and energy prices also put pasta under the spotlight regarding these global themes. In Italy, 24 million people were still forced to make sacrifices in 2022 in situations of daily hardship (Coop 2022 report) and, according to the UN, 828 million people suffered from hunger in 2021. As the protagonist of countless waste-saving and leftover recipes, pasta proves to be an accessible food even at a difficult time for everyone. For example, in Italy, with half a kilo of pasta and a few other ingredients (tomato sauce, a drizzle of EVO oil, and a dusting of cheese), you can prepare a tasty, nutritious and balanced meal for a family of 4, for just over 2 euros. And in the United States, considering the average cost of a 1-pound pack of pasta ($1.36 for just under 500 g), an American family of 4 can eat a plate of pasta for half or less of what it would cost to buy a hot dog each. 

Italy leader in pasta, 9% export increase in 2022. This is how the world eats it

According to data from the International Pasta Organisation, Italy is the main pasta producing country in the world (with 3.6 million tons, ahead of Turkey and the USA), and we are also the leading consumers, with 23 kg per year, ahead of Tunisia (17), Venezuela (15), and Greece (12.2). While 2021 recorded 2.2 million tons of exported pasta, calculations by Unione Italiana Food of Istat data reveal a further growth (+9%) in the first six months of 2022. In absolute terms, Germany, the UK, France, the USA and Japan are the most strategic markets. But appetite for Italian pasta has grown by more than 40% in Colombia, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

#pasta trending topic, more than 100 million people have spoken about it in 2022. Social media marathon on 25 October 

World Pasta Day wouldn’t be the same without the involvement of social media: since the beginning of the year, more than 100 million people worldwide have used the hashtag #pasta in social media conversations (not least for the international debate on passive cooking). And so, on 25 October, the official social media channels of WeLovePasta.it will come to life for a social media marathon using the hashtag #globalpasta. With tweet ups, Facebook events, photos and Instagram stories, influencers and pasta lovers will be able to share the universal love for the lead player at our tables and star of the Mediterranean Diet.

Now in its 24th edition, World Pasta Day is promoted by Unione Italiana Food and the International Pasta Organisation. Partners in 2022 are Italian Trade Agency, Federazione Italiana Cuochi e Pastaria.