The Fascinating History Of The O-Shaped Pasta In SpaghettiO's

Tasked with the challenge of coming up with a product that might rival Chef Boyardee's spaghetti, Donald Goerke set out to create an equally appealing canned pasta for Campbell's. At the time, canned food had evolved from military sustenance to something more mainstream. World War II had ended, and pre-made foods like TV dinners and frozen vegetables became commonplace in American households. "It's a strange thing to me that a flavor memory that came out of a K-ration for military folks is now what's considered comfort food for a lot of Americans. It's almost an indulgence to have a can of SpaghettiOs now," culinary historian Kyle Cherek told radio station WUWM.

From experimenting with noodles shaped like stars, baseballs, and cowboys, Goerke and his crew decided upon circular shapes that could withstand not only the canning process but also subsequent cooking before landing in dishes to be gobbled up. Up until SpaghettiOs, Campbell's had focused primarily on soups, and Goerke's creation was transformative for the brand. Goerke was not only an ideas man — he came up with over 100 new products for Campbell's — but he also had quite the personality and Campbell's would recruit him to be part of press meetings. "He was enthusiastic and he had developed many of these things from the idea stage to basically millions of cans in people's cupboards," Cherek explained.

A hard launch with lasting success

Donald Goerke's concept of the small spaghetti rings was such a hit with test audiences that the product bypassed additional experiments and landed straight on to market shelves across the country. On October 18, 1965, cans of the world's "first spoonable spaghetti" captivated Americans. For the benefit of homemakers across the country, bowls filled with SpaghettiOs could be eaten by children with less of a mess than regular pasta noodles, and the convenience of dumping out the ready-made pasta to heat up and serve was appreciated by busy families. Supported by a catchy slogan advertising the noodles (borrowed from the hit Jimmie Rodgers song "Oh-Oh, I'm Falling in Love Again"), the product became both an earworm and a kitchen staple. By 2010, more than 150 million SpaghettiO cans were sold annually.

Since their inception in 1965, SpaghettiOs have been reimagined as teddy bears, sports-themed shapes like bicycles and roller skates, and images taken from the popular Where's Waldo books. The recipe remained the same until 2015 when Campbell's reconfigured ingredients to be able to make shapes for a Star Wars collaboration, as Chewbacca-shaped pasta required a bit more finesse to look like the character once scooped into a bowl — an idea that perhaps even Goerke himself might not have thought of.