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With over 120 pasta sizes and shapes available, one would think there was a design to satisfy every palette. However, Dan Pashman, host of James Beard and Webby Award-winning podcast The Sporkful, was unhappy with the available options. So, the food-lover spent three years, and a substantial amount of his personal savings, to create cascatelli — a new pasta shape that is purportedly more functional than any available today.
Pashman's noodle-design journey — documented in a five-series podcast dubbed Mission ImPASTAble — began accidentally in 2018. During a live performance at New York's Caveat Theater, the podcaster expressed his frustration with spaghetti. “The Lady and the Tramp did a great disservice to American culinary history by romanticizing spaghetti," he grumbled. "You know, what we should have taken from that movie is that it's a pasta shape that's only fit for dogs."
He augmented the seemingly outrageous comment with an explanation saying: “[Spaghetti is] 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."
The audience's reaction to his criticism of the world's most popular noodle inspired Pashman to create a pasta shape that fulfilled three criteria: saucebility, forkability, and toothsinkability. "So forkability, which is how easy is it to get it on your fork and keep it there?" Pashman explained to CBS News. "Sauceability. How readily does sauce adhere? And toothsinkability, which is how satisfying is it to sink your teeth into it? And a lot of pasta shapes are great at one or two of these three things. But very few nail all three."
Pashman munched through every pasta shape available before settling on two favorites — mafaldine, a fettucine-like noodle with ruffles down the edges, and bucatini, a thick spaghetti with a hole in the center. Teaming up with North Dakota State University's Pasta Lab and a few food professionals, the podcaster combined the best attributes of both pastas to create cascatelli. "I would describe the shape overall as a curved comma or half a heart," Pashman told Salon.com. "On one side, there's ruffles, and in the space between, you've got a dugout, kind of a half-tube that just traps sauce in there. It's amazing."
Creating the perfect shape was not Pashman's only challenge. He also had to convince a pasta company to manufacture the new creation. Luckily, artisan food company Sfoglini agreed to take a chance and the rest, as they say, is history! The first batch of 3,700 boxes of cascatelli, which hit the market in early March 2021, instantly sold out, and there is currently a wait of almost 10 weeks for those wishing to get their hands on the world's most "perfect" pasta shape!
Resources: Smithsonian.com, NPR.com,Odditycentralc.com, www.sfoglini.com