My friend, John Desmond, has found a wonderful essay that amounts to a mini-history of pasta.
One of the major themes of the essay is that what the Italians call pasta secca, or dried pasta, likely comes from the Near East, since it needs to be made from durum wheat, which was one of the earliest forms of grain grown in the Fertile Crescent. This approach to tracing the origins of pasta secca has the additional benefit of ruling out China as the founder of pasta, since the type of wheat grown in China in early times was not durum. The author suggests that Marco Polo might have taken Chinese noodles back to Italy as a curiosity, but that the noodles in question likely were made with sago palm or breadfruit flour. These noodles likely were what the Italians call pasta fresca or "fresh" pasta, meaning that the noodles had to be cooked shortly after they are formed. The great virtue of pasta secca, in contrast, is that it keeps indefinitely.
The article can be found here on the Saudi Aramco World news site, and is worthwhile reading for any aspiring food historian. Bon appetit!