Did you know that the number of Italian pasta shapes out there is estimated to be between 260 and 600? Even the low number came as a shock to me – who can count on two hands the pastas I can remember off the top of my head, and on one hand those I routinely keep in my pantry. (Penne for life!)
Well, add one more shape to that mind-boggling tally, as The Sporkful podcast host Dan Pashman has partnered up with artisanal pasta makers Sfoglini to create cascatelli – adorably, “little waterfalls.”
The saga is covered in a five-part arc (“Mission: ImPASTAble”) on Pashman’s popular podcast, describing his trip through the pasta design world. Turns out, the seemingly simple food item, quickly cooked, and just as quickly devoured, is not simple at all.
“The result of many rounds of designing, engineering, and trial and error, the final product resembles an oversized comma with ruffles on either side of a curved half-tube. It’s supposed to maximize three core qualities: ‘sauceability’ (how well sauce adheres to it), ‘forkability’ (how easily it stays on the fork), and ‘toothsinkability’ (how satisfying it is to sink one’s teeth into it). […]
Long, short, round, flat, ridged, smooth, curved, even angular — if you can picture it, a shape probably already exists. Or if it doesn’t, then there’s a reason why. Turns out that designing a shape that is both original enough to count as its own entity, practical enough to be able to be manufactured at some scale, and tasty enough to even warrant being brought into this world, is not a walk in the park. Sorry to all the would-be inventors whose late-night buzzed idea is ‘just combine, like, a macaroni with a mafaldine.’”
Pashman’s cascatelli success (the shape, at least via Sfoglini’s website, is on massive backorder brought back the last time I remembered this happening when French designer Phillipe Starck created a new pasta shape back in the 1980s. Dubbed “mandala,” the deeply ridged tube was buttressed inside by a ying-yang-like crossbeam. But, despite Starck’s considerable qualifications, the shape flopped for a very basic reason – it cooked too unevenly! It seems outsider Pashman’s innovation avoids that particular pitfall; I wonder if cascatelli will stand the test of time, and enter the pasta shape hall of fame?