For some reason, I thought the canon of pasta shapes was fixed and eternal. Spaghetti, linguine, cavatappi, penne, fusilli, alphabets. The world of pasta is already so expansive, it never occurred to me that anyone could need anything more. I was sure there was some Italian government office in Rome—maybe next door to the one where they keep track of what qualifies as authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano and San Marzano tomatoes—dedicated to the oversight and responsible usage of pasta shapes.
But now I learn this is not so! Dan Pashman, the host of the podcast Sporkful, decided he would create a new pasta shape, and by god, he did it! He didn’t even have to travel to Italy. Instead he consulted with members of the Pasta Lab at... North Dakota State University? (Okay, this actually makes sense because most of America’s durum wheat, which is what’s used to make pasta, is grown in North Dakota.) It was a very dramatic journey, chronicled, of course, over five episodes of Sporkful, collectively known as “Mission: ImPASTAble.” There was laughter. There were tears. There was yelling in exasperation from Pashman’s wife. And at the end, a brand-new pasta shape! It’s sort of a cross between mafaldine (a ruffly fettuccine) and bucatini. Pashman called it cascatelli, which means “waterfalls” (sort of: technically the plural in Italian is “cascatelle,” but Pashman liked the i ending better), because that’s what it looks like. “I would describe the shape overall as a curved comma or half a heart,” he told Salon. “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.”
According to Pashman, there are three major components of pasta: “forkability,” “sauceability,” and “toothsinkability.” These refer to the way pasta stays on the fork, the way sauce stays on the pasta, and how satisfying it is to take a bite. Cascatelli, in his humble opinion, rates high on all three.
You can even buy it through Sfoglini for $4.99 for a one-pound box, although, Salon reports, you’ll have to wait 10 weeks because it’s all sold out.