No, spaghetti were not imported from China by Marco Polo when he returned to Venice at the end of the 13th century. This is a fabrication invented by the Macaroni Journal in 1929, a magazine created by American pasta manufacturers (the National Macaroni Manufacturers Association) whose mission was to make Americans more familiar with pasta for commercial purposes.
In fact, we have various testimonies on the production of pasta before the Venetian’s journey, one of the first coming from the Arab geographer Al-Idrisi in his Tabula Rogeriana (1154). He described Sicily as the centre of significant maritime traffic and in particular the city of Trabia, where “a great deal of pasta is manufactured to be exported all over”. Pasta was supposedly imported to Europe by the Arabs at the time of their expansion into the world.
Although it is impossible to attribute the invention of spaghetti and more generally pasta to a specific culture with any certainty, the Italian peninsula has been the most important production hub of this food from the 12th century to today. In the common imaginary and throughout the world, pasta has become synonymous with Italian culture: “Spaghetti have just as much if not more right to belong to the Italian civilisation than does Dante”, said the famous Italian journalist and writer Giuseppe Prezzolini (Maccheroni & C., 1957).
This pasta shape is ideal with a plethora of creamy sauces ranging from meat (all’amatriciana or alla carbonara for example) to fish (with clams, mixed shellfish, etc.).