Pasta has been around for thousands of years and may be one of the most universally enjoyed foods in history. With such a long, rich history, it might seem that there isn’t much we can do to improve pasta. One might find it nearly impossible to come up with a pasta dish that hasn’t been attempted.
Despite all of this, people are still pushing the limits of what they can do with pasta. In fact, there is a new pasta shape in town that claims to be the perfect pasta shape. This seems like a herculean task, considering that there are hundreds of different shapes and that most people already have a favorite. But this new cascatelli shape has actually really impressed us, and here are some of the reasons why…
1. It was Designed by Dan Pashman
Dan Pashman is the James Beard and Webby Award-winning creator and host of The Sporkful, a podcast that boasts “it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters.” He’s made a slew of appearances on different tv and radio shows, and is also the creator/host of the Cooking Channels’ You’re Eating It Wrong. So when we say this guy knows his food, he knows his food!
He decided several years ago that he wanted to come up with a new pasta shape. This might sound like a whimsical, wacky idea just to pass the time. But for Dan, there was purpose behind his endeavor. He felt that despite his seemingly insatiable love for pasta, every shape had some sort of flaw. Either it didn’t hold onto sauce well enough, was difficult to pick up with the fork, or didn’t have a very satisfying texture.
Spaghetti, farfalle, rotini, lasagna – you name it – Dan could find something wrong with all of these. He’d still happily eat them but began to wonder if it was possible to create the perfect pasta shape. So, he took it upon himself to actually try to create it. Fortunately for him, he already had a popular podcast and some industry connections to help him on his journey.
2. There was HEAVY Research
Pashman clearly had quite a difficult task ahead of him. Not only is pasta pretty much ubiquitous, it’s also highly revered by many different cultures. To try to come onto the scene as a podcaster with a wacky idea was sure to ruffle some feathers among pasta purists. But without their blessing, it would probably be even more difficult to sell to casual pasta eaters, who may have no motivation to try something they’ve never heard of.
Despite his passion for pasta, Pashman was no expert on production of the food staple. So, he visited the Pasta Lab at North Dakota State University to get a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes. He learned about a wide range of different kinds of pasta and got to speak to researchers who were experienced in analyzing different pasta shapes and textures.
However, Pashman couldn’t just rely on the science behind the pasta – he had to try every pasta he could get his hands on to see how they actually performed. He traveled to supermarkets, specialty stores, and even ordered dozens of pasta shapes online to get an idea for what he liked and what he didn’t like.
3. Pashman Teamed Up with Sfoglini
Sfoglini, which was founded in Brooklyn in 2012, combines the very best of Italian technique and American ingredients. Not only does Sfoglini only use the best of the best ingredients (North American organic durum semolina pastas), but they also use top-notch equipment and process.
For starters, they slow-dry all of their pastas at a very low temperature which in turn preserve the nutrients and flavor. In addition, they only use traditional bronze dies/plates which is how they’re able to get that amazing rough texture on the pasta (this is important for ‘sauceability’ which we’ll bring up in a bit!)
4. The Criteria Set the Bar High
Titled “Mission: ImPASTAble,” the five-episode Sporkful series chronicles Pashman’s efforts to bring his perfect pasta to life through much questioning, research, and development. He found that he had 3 main criteria by which he was judging pasta: sauceability, forkability, and tooth sinkability. He couldn’t quite find a pasta shape that checked all three boxes to his satisfaction, so he decided to make one instead…
Sauceability – This is how well the sauce will stick to the pasta. Certain noodles have no ridges, which means that sauce slides right off it. Others might have ridges which are too small, making them useless for “picking” up the sauce.
Some examples of pasta with great sauceability are mafaldine, trumpets, or even fusilli.
Forkability – This is a measure of how easily you can get the pasta on the fork and bring it to your mouth. Certain pastas seem to collapse under the pressure of the fork, while others are difficult to shape and slide back onto the plate as you are eating them.
A long cut pasta is going to have more forkability, as there are more fork insertion points. Some great examples of this are penne, macaroni, and rigatoni.
7. Tooth Sinkability
Tooth Sinkability – This is essentially a measure of the mouthfeel of the pasta. Nobody likes pasta that is too mushy, nor do they want it to be crunchy. While much of that has to do with cooking technique, some shapes just don’t seem to be as satisfying to bite into.
Dan found that he had a strong affinity for mafaldine – a wavy, thin, flat noodle with ruffled sides. He liked the sauceability and forkability of the noodle but felt that there could be a bit more toothsinkability. This is where he preferred a tube shape pasta like a bucatini.
Eventually, Pashman decided to combine the properties of several different types of pasta to create a ridged, tube-shaped noodle that was shorter than spaghetti but longer than rigatoni or penne. He theorized that the shape would create maximum forkability, while the ridges and texture would improve sauceability and toothsinkability. It was here that cascatelli was born.
8. It’s in High Demand
Named cascatelli, which is Italian for “waterfalls,” the pasta became an immediate hit. In fact, if you want to get your hands on a box, the current waitlist at least 12 weeks – that’s how much interest this beautifully designed noodle has garnered.
Considering the long wait times just to obtain a box of the new noodle, it seems that Pashman’s creation is a major success. Sfoglini (the manufacturer) has been rushing to fulfill orders ever since it first hit the shelves.
9. It’s Received Glowing Reviews
Reviews of the cascatelli “waterfalls” are overwhelmingly positive. Not only has this pasta shape gotten the ‘thumbs up’ from foodies all over the country, the 5 star reviews on Sfoglini’s website are so fun and entertaining to read.
Our favorite comes from Ben Muller who stated “There are several days in my life that changed it forever: the day I was born, the day my sisters were born, the day I met my girlfriend, and the day I graduated all come to mind. The day I tried cascatelli made all of these days seem like just your average forgettable Wednesday.”
Pashman believes that he found his perfect pasta, and there’s a good chance that many others will too. The good news is that we have secured our order and will soon be posting recipes with what might just be the first “viral” pasta shape the world has ever known. We’re certainly eager to try it, even if our boxes are still a few weeks away!
If you’re interested in learning more about Pashman’s deep dive into the world of pasta, subscribe to the Sporkful podcast and look for the “Mission: ImPASTAble” series. It’s funny, emotional, informative, and will probably make you hungry! That’s no problem though, especially if you can get your hands on a box of Cascatelli! 😉
If you like this post, we think you’ll really like our Honeycomb Pasta recipe post.