Have you ever been munching on some macaroni or penne and wondered what other shapes you could make with pasta? Dan Pashman did. The host of The Sporkful podcast, he decided to make a new “ideal” pasta shape that would deliver pasta perfection, one that allows for a delicious bite, an appealing texture, and would hold the right amount of sauce.
After three years, and in collaboration with Sfoglini Pasta Company, he came up with cascatelli, described as “a short pasta shape with a flat strip and a pair of ruffles parallel to each other, each of which sticks out at a 90-degree angle from the strip. The ruffles give the shape texture and create a “sauce trough” that holds sauce.”
Sfoglini officially released cascatelli to the world in 2021, and it’s been making waves in pasta sauce ever since. Vice caught up with Pashman earlier in the month to talk about how he’s working to bring new pasta shapes to the United States.
Vice explained, “Every so often, there’s a moment of hype so powerful that it actually makes history. Such was the case in 2021, when food podcaster Dan Pashman, host of the incredibly popular culinary podcast The Sporkful, took it upon himself to try to create a totally original pasta shape (and sell it). He documented the challenging, years-long journey—which involved wheat academics, rare pasta die manufacturers, and even a professional linguist—in a series called “Mission: ImPASTAble,” concluding with the release of his new shape, cascatelli, through artisan pasta company Sfoglini. The series landed The Sporkful on The New York Times’ list of the best podcasts of 2021; unsurprisingly, the show has also won a Webby, and has made Pashman a two-time James Beard award winner.
Pashman’s quest to create a perfect pasta shape revolved around an obsession with finding the nexus of his three most important pasta ideals: “forkability” (how well it stays on a fork), “saucability” (how well it holds sauce), and “tooth-sinkability” (how pleasurable it is to bite and chew). This is just a bunch of made up words and metrics, you might be thinking. And you’d be exactly right—that’s why Pashman is one of the most entertaining culinary figures in the game today. Instead of retiring as a modern pasta legend after the success of cascatelli—which found its way to everywhere from fine dining menus and meal kits to being bootlegged by Trader Joe’s—he set his sights on partnering with Sfoglini on two new shapes: vesuvio and quattrotini.
Unlike cascatelli, these new pastas were based on already existing Italian shapes, but ones that are difficult (and in some cases impossible) to procure in the U.S., making this Sfoglini drop a pretty exclusive and landmark event for pasta-heads around the country. Quattrotini—based on Sicily’s cinque buchi shape—is a Sicilian shape involving four tubes connected by a rectangle (it makes sense when you see it), and is manufactured and served only in Italy for one week a year. Vesuvio is the pasta incarnation of a coiled bike tire tube that has become a hat (or a volcano, hence the name). As of January 24, both are now available at Sfoglini. “
You can read the interview between Vice and the mad scientist behind new pasta designs here.
In 2021, Pashman’s creation was called one of the year’s greatest inventions by TIME Magazine.
National grocery chains are catching on. The Fresh Market has begun selling a licensed version of cascatelli in its 159 stores across the eastern United States and Trader Joe’s now stocks its version all over the country. A gluten-free cascatelli made from chickpeas came out in 2022.