Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance isn’t really about motorcycle maintenance. Cooking cascatelli is about so much more than cascatelli.
Cascatelli, for those who don’t follow Dan Pashman’s Sporkful podcast, is a new pasta shape that Pashman invented and produced with pasta company Sfoglini. It was a three-year ordeal, the trials and tribulations of which are documented through the podcast.
Its result is a ruffled, tentacle-like shape named for the Italian word for waterfall. (“If you want to save us both some hate mail,” Pashman tells me, “you can say that technically the correct plural would be ‘cascatelle,’ ending in ‘e,’ but that I chose to end it in an ‘i’ because I thought it would sound more like a pasta shape to the average American.”)
Other chefs and writers have already analyzed and reviewed cascatelli, dissecting the minutiae of its angles and ridges and sauce-grabbing properties. I will spare us another 1,000 words repeating what the majority of them have already written: It’s a great pasta shape! Its ruffles trap sauce like a vacuum; its curled shape is satisfying to bite into; its surface texture is ever-so-slightly rough and sauce grabbing.
But this isn’t a review of cascatelli, because the particulars of this shape aren’t its most important achievement. Cascatelli’s true culinary contribution is that it has spurred home cooks—myself included—to think differently, and more deeply, about pasta. Here’s what I mean.