BRITISH PASTA HABITS
In honour of World Pasta Day, we surveyed Britain – a nation of pasta lovers – to discover which city is the ultimate pasta capital of the UK. Along the way, we unearthed some rather intriguing revelations about pasta habits up and down the country. Join us as we take the nation’s ‘pasta pulse’.
The UK’s pasta capital
According to our poll, Liverpool is the pasta capital of the UK – more scousers typically eat pasta at least once per week (68%) than Brits from any other city we surveyed. The people of Leeds are hot on their tail (67%) with the rest of the nation not too far behind. Despite being home to a plethora of highly-rated pasta restaurants, Birmingham had the fewest weekly pasta eaters – just 46% of Brummies told us that they have a weekly pasta fix.
UK pasta habits
Italians look away now: despite the UK’s reputation as a nation of Italophiles – most Brits don’t necessarily ‘do as the Italians do’ when it comes to preparing, serving and eating pasta. In fact, British pasta habits differ quite markedly from those in Italy…
When and where do Brits eat pasta?
According to our proudly Italian Head Chef, Roberta d’Elia, most Italians eat pasta daily or almost everyday (although they're typically more reserved with their pasta portion sizes). In contrast, only 2% of Brits said they typically eat pasta at least once a day, and 1 in 2 (52%) said they eat pasta once a week – suggesting that most Brits prefer to save pasta for a weekly treat.
Judging by our survey, when Britons do sit down to their weekly pasta extravaganza, you’re unlikely to find them gathered around the table together, an Italian ritual known as convivialità. Of those that eat pasta, 41% admitted that their preferred occasion to do so is actually while relaxing in front of the TV1. Furthermore, nearly 1 in 5 (19%) “confessed” they don’t even plate up their pasta, but instead eat it straight from the pan. Some Brits don’t even make it as far as the sofa – 11% of Londoners admitted they’re prone to eating pasta in bed.
A nation of ‘pasta sinners’
Our survey confirmed that when it comes to pasta, the nation has no qualms about swapping traditional Italian ingredients for homegrown specialities. Over half of Brits (57%) said that they top their pasta with grated cheddar cheese instead of an Italian hard cheese like parmesan, while 32% often use bacon in their spaghetti carbonara, as opposed to the more traditional guanciale or pancetta.
As Chef Roberta explains:
“An authentic carbonara only requires a few components, so for Italians, choosing the right ingredients is a must. Pancetta is always better than bacon, but using guanciale (cured pig cheek) will bless your dish with a far superior flavour – it’s much fattier and releases this deeply flavoured fat when fried – enriching carbonara with its signature savouriness.”
The further down the British Isles you go, the more likely that Brits are to break Italian culinary traditions. In fact, southerners were the most likely to admit to topping their pasta with grated cheddar (64%) and twice the number of Londoners admitted to putting ketchup on their pasta (13%) than those from the North (6%). The worst offenders, though, are the Welsh. A combined 25% admitted to putting either ketchup or mayo on their pasta.
Chef Roberta said:
“You won't see any self-respecting Italians put ketchup on pasta – never mind using it instead of tomato sugo! We have so many classic sauces to dress our pasta with, why would we need to? As for mayo, I’ve used it in a cold pasta salad before (even if it’s not traditionally Italian), but topping hot pasta with mayonnaise? Mamma mia! That’s a pasta sin.”
The UK’s favourite pasta dishes
Chef Roberta proudly proclaims that Italy boasts over a thousand different pasta dishes across twenty regions, from Sicily’s pesto alla Trapanese to Campania’s spaghetti alla Nerano. However, when asked what their favourite pasta dish was2, 79% of the UK picked delicious – but well-trodden – classics like carbonara, mac & cheese, bolognese and lasagne. In comparison, only 1% of Brits chose a lesser-known speciality like wild boar ragù. Digging deeper, people from Scotland were the most likely to choose a pasta dish which isn’t actually Italian: twice as many Scots said mac & cheese was their favourite pasta dish (22%) than those from England (11%).
So there you have it, whilst Brits certainly love pasta, our pasta habits aren’t likely to impress the Italians as it stands. Don’t tell our nonnas, but we think that’s okay – food is destined to change as it travels, and sometimes it’s fine to break the rules.
That said, if you’re hankering after a true taste of Italy, we’re here for you. At Pasta Evangelists, we deliver a taste of Italy to your door. Our cook at home pasta kits come with everything you need to prepare a restaurant-quality pasta dish in under 5 minutes – simply cook the fresh pasta, heat up the carefully-crafted sauce and add the included garnish.
Alternatively, if you feel like you could do with some expert pasta guidance, not pay a visit to our Pasta Academy, where Chef Roberta and her team of sfogline would be delighted to set you on the path to pasta virtue with an in-person pasta masterclass.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 911 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd September - 3rd October 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 18+) in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leicester.
National and regional results
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2067 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd - 26th September 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
1 Respondents were presented with the following options and asked to choose their favourite occasion to enjoy pasta: romantic date night, hangover cure, impressing friends at a dinner party, relaxing in front of the TV and to cheer themselves up.
2 Respondents were presented with the following list and asked to choose their favourite dish: basil pesto, seafood sauce, puttanesca, carbonara, wild boar ragù, amatriciana, lasagne, bolognese, lasagne and mac & cheese.