Do not think of mentioning the popular belief that Marco Polo had a role in the history of pasta. “Ma no,” [Italian food historian Oretta Zanini de Vita] said in a jovial paroxysm of outrage. “When Marco Polo came back they had been eating pasta in Italy for 200 years!”
Instead, she notes in her encyclopedia, dried pasta made with durum wheat was found in Italy starting around A.D. 800. It was spread by the Muslim conquerors of Sicily, and by the 12th century the maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa marketed dried pasta.
“Documents exist to prove this, should there be anyone left — and it appears that there is — who still believes that Marco Polo introduced noodles into Italy in 1296 on his return to Venice from China,” she writes.
--Rachel Donadio, NYT, on pasta's long history in Italy
The familiar legend of Marco Polo importing pasta from China originated with the Macaroni Journal, published by an association of food industries with the goal of promoting the use of pasta in the United States.
--Wikipedia on the myth's origin