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'Mission: ImPASTAble': Inside one man's quest to make a pasta shape with 'sauceability'

Meet cascatelli, a new pasta that's looking to shape up dinnertime with its "toothsinkability."
cascatelli
Cascatelli is a new ruffled pasta shape that was made for sauce. TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Dan Pashman
/ Source: TODAY

Ziti, tortellini, bucatini, oh my! There are countless pasta shapes and they're all pretty delicious. But if you ask Dan Pashman, they're not all created equally and some shapes just offer an extra dose of "sauceability."

So when Pashman, who hosts a food podcast called "The Sporkful", got sick of eating the same-old pasta shapes a few years ago, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

After three years of research and plenty of trial and error, Pashman recently released a new pasta shape that he's named cascatelli, and he's excited for fellow pasta aficionados to give it a try.

The podcaster, who has no professional training as a chef, teamed up with American pasta maker Sfoglini to invent the new shape and documented his efforts in a five-episode podcast series called "Mission: ImPASTAble."

The end result is a pasta shape that Pashman describes as a "short, flat strip with a bump on one side and two ruffles sticking out the other side." When the podcaster set out to create the shape, he had a few requirements in mind and luckily, cascatelli ended up checking off all his boxes.

"I have three metrics I look for in all pasta shapes — sauceability (how well sauce adheres), forkability (how easy it is to get it on the fork and keep it there), and toothsinkability (how satisfying it is to bite into it). A lot of shapes are great at one or two of these things, but very few nail all three," he told TODAY Food.

Pashman with his delicious creation.Courtesy Dan Pashman

The ruffles in each piece of cascatelli intersect the main strip at a right angle, which Pashman says is a pretty rare feat in the world of pasta.

"You don't find many shapes with right angles, and that provides resistance to the bite from all directions, making it very toothsinkable. Also, the spot where the ruffles meet the main strip ends up slightly firmer than the edges of the shape," he explained. "Too much variation in cooking would be bad, you'd end up with crunchy parts and mushy parts. But subtle variations create something that sensory scientists call 'dynamic contrast' — variations in texture within a single bite."

As he began creating what would later become cascatelli, Pashman came up against several obstacles and realized that the shape he had originally envisioned was "physically impossible."

"Then I needed to get the mold for the shape made and there's only one guy in the country who does that, and he did not have much time for a pipsqueak like me. Then we thought we had a shape and it started malfunctioning," he said.

Cascatelli is now available online.Courtesy Dan Pashman

Pashman was determined to create a unique shape that wasn't gimmicky and would "stand the test of time," and wanted to maintain the core elements of a traditional pasta shape while adding a few new elements that would help his design stand out from the crowd.

"My main influences were bucatini (like spaghetti but hollow down the center) and mafalde (like lasagna with ruffles, but narrow enough to twirl on a fork). The big things I took from those shapes were ruffles, and some sort of tube component," he said.

When it came time to give his pasta shape a name, Pashman opted for cascatelli, an Italian word that means "waterfalls."

"My favorite pasta names are the Italian word for something the shape looks like, so I tried to follow in that tradition. Again I didn't want a gimmick, I wanted a name that would sound like a classic pasta name," he said. "If you hold the pasta vertically, the ruffles look like flowing water."

Now that he's spent three years perfecting cascatelli, Pashman has picked up a few pasta cooking tips and said the shape pairs well with thick tomato sauce and meat sauces and ingredients like shrimp or veggies.

"You can stab those other items and stab the cascatelli and because the pasta is so thick you get a really delicious, toothsinkable bite," he said.

Intrigued by this unique pasta shape? Cascatelli is now available online for $4.99/box or in a four-pack for $17.99.