Whether we’re twirling it on our forks or baking it into a creamy, cheesy American casserole, there's no denying that we love pasta. 

According to the National Pasta Association, Americans alone eat about 15 pounds per person per year. For a better sense of what that means, consider that the average Italian — who eats pasta daily — eats about 51 pounds per year. Yet, despite our love of these starchy noodles, we’d be willing to bet our weight in dried penne that most people don't actually know very much about pasta.

When we think of pasta, most of us picture the semolina flour-based noodle stocked on supermarket shelves in a colorful cardboard box, but pasta comes in a range of different varieties both dried and fresh. Fresh pasta can be found in the refrigerated section of stores; because it is made with little more than wheat flour and egg yolks, it is highly perishable. Dried pasta starts with a paste made of flour and water which is then passed through an extruder or pressed into molds to create various shapes. It is dried for several days at a low temperature, so that the moisture evaporates, making it shelf-stable.

Though pasta is traditionally (and most commonly) made with wheat flour, gluten-free varieties are available for those with allergies or sensitivities to the gluten found in wheat flour. Gluten-free pastas are typically made with rice, quinoa, or corn flours.

If all this talk of pasta is making you hungry, go put a big pot of well-salted water on to boil (and please, no oil — it’ll just make the pasta sauce slide off the noodles) and read on. We've got some fun pasta facts to keep you busy until your noodles reach a perfect al dente.