A new form of pasta called Cascatelli is gobbled up by fans

Dan Pashman, A99, rolls in the dough. Raw pasta. The James Beard Award-winning podcast host The Sporkful, Pashman spent three years creating a new form of pasta, the cascatelli. When boutique pasta maker Sfoglini launched the product last spring, its first run of 4,000 pounds sold out in less than two hours.

The judgment of Food & Wine magazine? “Perfect for sauce.” “Very well”, applauded the New York Times. “People need this shape,” insisted celebrity chef Sohla el-Waylly. Weather declared cascatelli one of the best inventions of 2021.

Fans who missed the initial rush waited weeks for their orders to arrive as production ramped up. By the end of the year, Sfoglini and Pashman, who says they grew up in a “food-obsessed” household, had sold 300,000 books.

An enemy of dull, droopy doughs, the exuberant New Jersey native shared his crazy manufacturing odyssey with Spontaneous listeners in a podcast series called “Mission: ImPASTable”. Three fixed stars guided his quest. He wanted his design to have fork capability, tine sink capability, and sauce capability (all terms he coined). In other words, the shape had to be easy to cast, nice to bite into, and able to pick up large amounts of marinara.

After interviewing chefs, pasta makers, and creators of molds for pasta machines (the molds in which pasta is made), Pashman experimented with the shapes. It came to a graceful, wrinkled-edged apostrophe the size of a child’s thumb. “I assumed the reason there were no new forms was that no one had thought to try, but that’s only part of the explanation. The other part is that the The equipment used to make the pasta and the way the pasta is made is limiting,” he says.

Despite his creativity, Pashman struggled to come up with the right name for his pasta, a challenge made more difficult because he insisted that non-Italian-speaking Americans needed to be able to pronounce it and to spell. After rejecting millipiedi (too creepy) and Godzilla (legal issues), he landed on a variation of the word that means “little waterfalls” in Italian and reflects the tumbling look of pasta.

National grocery chains sensed something profitable cooking. The Fresh Market sells a licensed version in its 159 stores across the eastern United States, and Trader Joe’s stocks its version nationwide. A gluten-free cascatelli made with chickpeas hit stores earlier this year.

Pashman himself has also become a rare commodity. Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which represents Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, signed him as a client in the fall.

So far, Pashman has recouped the $9,000 in upfront money he paid the diemakers, and he’s using some of his profits to sweeten his children’s college savings accounts. As for the future, he keeps a lid on his plans.

“There are opportunities that CAA and I are exploring that I can’t say more about right now,” says Pashman, who got into the media when he was at Tufts and hosted a wacky show of 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. on WMFO.

“I’m not necessarily interested in being a celebrity, but I want to use my creativity in any way I can, whether it’s writing a book, working on TV, or creating other food products,” Pashman adds. He is a contributor to NPR and Slate and wrote the 2014 book Eat more better.

After being swept away by the success of Cascatelli, Pashman hints that he might also want to reinvent another cupboard staple: tortilla chips. “There are some very good ones,” he says. “I’m just wondering if there’s a way to design them so they hold more dip and are less likely to break.”