Cascatelli – The Ideally Shaped Pasta You Didn’t Even Know Existed

Inspired by the firm belief that spaghetti is far from the ideal shape for pasta, a man set out to create a perfectly shaped pasta. The result of his hard work is now known as cascatelli.

The story of how cascatelli came to be began in 2018, when Dan Pashman, the host of the James Beard and Webby Award-winning “Sporkful” podcast, made some harsh remarks about spaghetti, on the stage of the Caveat Theater, in front of a live audience. His comments got a lot of attention and inspired him to dedicate a lot of his time to researching pasta shapes in a quest to create the ideal pasta design, which needed to have an appealing texture, have the perfect bite, and, most importantly, hold the right amount of sauce. Believe it or not, he spent almost three years on this project.

“I’m just gonna go ahead and say it, spaghetti sucks,” Pashman famously said on the stage of New York’s Caveat Theater. “It’s round on the outside, that means it is a low surface area in relation to the volume, that means that sauce doesn’t adhere to it well. It means less of it contacts your teeth when you first bite it.”

Pashman’s comments were met with laughter, but he was serious, and for good reason, his observations made a lot of sense. Sure there was all this romanticism associated with spaghetti, but from a functional design perspective, they weren’t all that impressive.

The reactions his comments on spaghetti received inspired Dan Pashman to create “Mission ImPASTAble“, a five-part saga on his Sporkful podcast that saw him take a trip to the Pasta Lab at North Dakota State University, visit the only pasta die maker in the United States, and get into heated debates about existing pasta shapes with a number of food professionals. It culminated with the creation of a new pasta named cascatelli.

“I came at this from an outsider’s perspective,” Pashman told Esquire Magazine. “I’m not a chef, I’m not Italian-American, I’m not a pasta expert or historian, so I tried to embrace that perspective, you know? I just approached it from the perspective of someone who loves to eat pasta. What’s the pasta shape that I would most want to eat that doesn’t exist?”

The Sporkful host based the design of cascatelli on three main principles: 1) Sauceability: how readily sauce adheres to the shape; 2) Forkability: how easy it is to get the shape on your fork and keep it there; 3) Toothsinkability: how satisfying it is to sink your teeth into it.

Shaped like comma with grooved ridges and a central “sauce trough”, cascatelli pasta is designed to hold the right amount of sauce and also have the perfect bite. Distributed for $4.99 per pound by American pasta maker Sfoglini, Pashman’s uniquely shaped pasta has made quite a splash, and is currently sold out.

Although cascatelli turned out to be a hit, getting it on the market was a tough challenge. His pitches for pasta shapes were crushed by all the companies he approached, and even finding distributors for cascatelli was a tall order. Luckily, artisan food company Sfoglini was sold on his idea, so after investing a lot of his own money and time into the project, Dan Pashman had his own ideally-shaped pasta.

Getting your hands on some cascatelli is going to be a problem in the short term, as it’s all sold out, and orders are delayed by a period of 12 weeks until the next batch is ready, but things will get back to normal eventually, and we’ll all be able to try this much-talked-about pasta.


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