Study Reveals How Italians Really Feel About Ketchup And Pasta

Spaghetti is one of those mainstream Italian foods that just about anyone can make. You don't need to hunt for fancy ingredients and you certainly don't need to have an absurd list of cooking skills to prepare it. The combination of pasta, tomato sauce and, should you include them, fresh Parmesan cheese and meatballs is a simple and beloved dish enjoyed in many homes across the United States on any given night.

But, is spaghetti actually a "true" Italian dish? Truthfully, it's mostly a combination of both Italian and American influences. Smithsonian notes that you won't find the standard version of "spaghetti and meatballs" in Italy, as the modern-day meatball was "invented" by Italian immigrants who had more access to beef in the United States. Aside from the American-Italian spaghetti we commonly enjoy, variations on the pasta dish are still enjoyed thoroughly in Italy — with the country eating 23.5 kg of pasta per year (via Statista).

Of course, it should be no surprise that we Americans do things a bit differently than people living in Italy. It's simply a product of the intermixing of two cultures, with different ways of enjoying food. But what would happen if Italians found out that some Americans enjoy not just tomato sauce on their spaghetti, but a few healthy squirts of ketchup?

Italians find ketchup on spaghetti abhorrent

According to a survey done by YouGov (via Fine Dining Lovers), 17 countries — including Italy — were polled regarding their opinion on the worst things that people can do to Italian food. Out of 19 "abuses," participants were asked what was excusable, divisive, or downright unacceptable. It turns out that the one deemed most unacceptable to Italian people was putting ketchup on spaghetti. It was deemed even worse than putting your pasta in cold water and even the controversial pineapple on pizza.

When did the practice of putting ketchup on spaghetti start? Certain sources, like Jack's Crackers, seem to place the invention around the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s. There even exists something known as Napolitan, or Japanese Ketchup Spaghetti. According to the Spruce Eats, Napolitan is a pasta dish made with onions, green peppers, and bacon or ham tossed in a tomato ketchup-based sauce. The name of Napolitan is even a reference to Naples, Italy. It's strangely similar, however, to the classic combination of spaghetti, ketchup, and sliced hot dogs that some Americans enjoy. This, according to Rachel Ng of The Kitchn, was a surprise when her boyfriend at the time claimed her dish of Napolitan spaghetti wasn't "spaghetti with sausage."

In the classic gangster film "Goodfellas," Irish-American mobster Jimmy Burke is seen adding ketchup to an Italian pasta dinner (via The Guardian), perhaps further proof that only criminals would deface Italian cuisine like that.