There's a Brand New Pasta Shape That's Perfect for Sauce
Even if you don't work at a restaurant or a food magazine, you likely have strong opinions about pasta shapes. One of those strong, negative opinions—about spaghetti, to be exact—propelled Dan Pashman, host of James Beard Award-winning podcast The Sporkful, to embark on a journey to develop what he considered the optimal pasta shape. And so, "cascatelli" was born, a new pasta shape that's now available online from artisanal pasta maker Sfoglini.
Pashman acknowledges that spaghetti has a lot of "cultural significance and nostalgia" attached to it, but it never quite worked for him. "I set out to create a shape that would hold sauce better and be more 'toothsinkable,'" he says. "But I also wanted a shape that would be multi-faceted, that would be different depending on how you bite into it, and that would reveal new elements of itself over the course of the bowl. I wanted it to have what sensory scientists call dynamic contrast—multiple textures in the same bite."
Pashman documented his quest in a five-episode series on The Sporkful, called Mission: ImPASTAble. "I thought finding a company to help me make the pasta would be easy," he says. "I was very wrong! The pasta giants didn't want to bother with a pipsqueak like me. The really small companies don't dry, box, and ship pasta—they just make fresh pasta to sell regionally."
Sfoglini's size—big enough to do the manufacturing and small enough to put in the time and effort to work with Pashman—made it the perfect collaborator for cascatelli, which draws inspiration from some of Pashman's favorite shapes, like bucatini and mafalde.
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So what exactly does this new shape look like? Its springy half-tube body acts as a sauce trough, with twin ruffles that hold sauce and add another textural component. Having tried it myself, I've been impressed with its ability to capture a whole lot of pesto within its ridges, almost acting like a stuffed pasta might.
Meanwhile, Pashman likes to use cascatelli in Andrea Nguyen's mapo tofu spaghetti recipe, as well as in a classic bolognese. "My mom has been testing it with more recipes for me," he says. "She says it's excellent with shrimp, or in a primavera––dishes where you have big chunks to stab."