Mission: ImPASTAble 9 | New Shapes From Old Places «
Emily Pashman: Who invented this?
Dan Pashman: This is an old shape, but they only make it at one specific part of Italy, and only like once a year.
Emily Pashman: All I want to know is who invented it and where do they live.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] They live somewhere in Sicily.
Becky Pashman: I thought you said it was a very old shape so shouldn’t the inventor be dead?
Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies it’s for eaters, I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people. Today we’re bringing you the next chapter of Mission: ImPASTAble, my multi-year quest to invent a new pasta shape, actually get it made, and actually sell it. Now, if you haven’t heard the original series or the three updates we’ve run since, I do recommend you start there. They’re in your podcast feed, all labeled Mission: ImPASTAble.
Dan Pashman: Now, this episode picks up one year ago – January 2022. All right? You ready? Let’s do this.
Dan Pashman: In the time since cascatelli launched, the #1 question I’ve gotten is, “Are you gonna invent another pasta shape?”
Dan Pashman: My answer is always the same: probably not. It was so hard the first time and the result was so incredible. How can I match that? The sequel is never as good as the original. Right? It would almost definitely be a disappointment and if it was, it would look like a cash grab. I don’t want that.
Dan Pashman: But I gotta say, I do like being known as the pasta shape guy. And seeing people all over the world eating something I created has been more moving than I expected. And everyone keeps asking me for new shapes, so it seems there’s demand for them.
Dan Pashman: I created cascatelli because I felt that the common pasta shapes most people are eating are just not that good. And because I wanted to see if I could make a better one. That’s just how I am. My parents got me piano lessons and after the second one I started writing my own songs. I think I can now say that while the songs were terrible, the pasta is good.
Dan Pashman: So I’ve satisfied my desire to create my own shape. I don’t need to invent another one. Instead, I think I have a better idea. In the time since cascatelli came out, I’ve become even more obsessed with obscure pasta shapes. Every month or two I order another shipment of different ones online. My wife Janie rolls her eyes as the bags and boxes pile up in the pantry.
Dan Pashman: Here’s what I want to do: I’ll pick a couple of hidden gems, shapes that have been languishing in the dusty corners of the pasta canon. I’ll brush em off, and team up with Sfoglini to produce them.
Dan Pashman: So what shapes should we make? Well, as I said I’ve been trying all kinds. There’s cestini — it means baskets. They’re like little picnic baskets, very sauceable, not so toothsinkable. Torchio — that’s shaped like a torch, tough to cook just right because of the variation in thickness but very toothsinkable if you can nail it. By the way, I’ve also tried higher quality versions of shapes I’d written off. Turns out medium size shells are really good!
Dan Pashman: Of course, I still have my principles. Evan Kleiman, my pasta fairy godmother, sent me a $15 bag of wagon wheels to prove to me that’s a good shape — it was trash — like eating pasta mixed with uncooked rice.
Dan Pashman: For my new shapes with Sfoglini there are plenty to choose from because most pasta shapes aren’t owned by anyone. Either they were never patented, or they’re like folk songs, so old that nobody knows who invented them. Of course, I’ll have to find shapes that meet my standards for forkability, sauceability, and toothsinkability.
Dan Pashman: As I’m thinking about this in early 2022, I immediately know what one of these shapes should be: Vesuvio. It’s named for Mt. Vesuvius in Italy — you know the volcano that erupted and buried Pompeii? Vesuvio the pasta looks kinda like the ice cream in a soft serve cone, like round tubes stacked on top of each other. Or, like a poop emoji.
Dan Pashman: But what makes it great is that those tubes have an opening on top, so they hold a TON of sauce. And those bulges, combined with the center vertical strip that holds the whole thing together, create — you guessed it — dynamic contrast. That combination of multiple textures that I love so dear. So it has great toothsinkability, and forkability. And on top of all that, it satisfies my unofficial fourth criteria: It’s just fun. I mean, it’s shaped like a volcano! It’s beautiful and whimsical, but it’s not a gimmick. Those features serve the eating experience. In spring 2022 I call up Scott Ketchum, co-founder of Sfoglini, to discuss.
Dan Pashman: There’s sort of two different types of vesuvios. There’s one that’s a little bit sort of like a spiral staircase, almost looks a little more like the smoke coming out of the volcano. And then there’s one, that’s a little bit more like short and squat that I would actually kind of say, it looks like the shape of a poop emoji. I feel like I want the sort of more short and squat.
Scott Ketchum: The more poop emoji?
Dan Pashman: The poop emoji one. [LAUGHS] Yeah. You know, maybe that’s what — maybe that’s what we should name it actually. How do you say poop emoji in Italian?
Scott Ketchum: Uh, I’m not sure. I’ll check it out and see.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] That’s gonna sell. I’m gonna Google it. How do you say poop emoji in Italian. [LAUGHING] Oh no, emoji de caca.
Scott Ketchum: Would you like to eat a little bit of pasta de caca?
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] I don’t think we should call it that. Let’s stick with vesuvio.
Dan Pashman: Scott’s on board with making vesuvio. As discussed ours will be more compact, with more tubes around the outside, which I think will maximize sauceability and toothsinkabiliy.
Dan Pashman: Now that that’s settled, we decide we want to find one more shape — this way we can launch two new ones at once and build out a Sporkful collection at Sfoglini. But what should that one more be? Scott and I have been on a scavenger hunt for the last few weeks, buying a bunch of promising-looking shapes to test out at home.
Dan Pashman: I love fusilloni, which is just a, a bigger, thicker version of fusilli. I think fusilli is trash. It’s thin. It falls apart, but fusilloni which is bigger thicker, and meatier, holds together, it’s more tooth sinkable. It’s a better ratio of pasta to sauce. What do you think about fusilloni?
Scott Ketchum: I’m not a huge fan of it. From past experience, I’ve seen that our fusilli options just do not tend to sell quite as well.
Dan Pashman: Okay. That’s a valid concern. Then there’s the square tube, which Nicholas Cage recently shared in a Reddit AMA, that he had this square tube pasta once and it blew his mind. I ordered a square tube pasta from Italy, an obscure one. You did the same. We both ate them. What did you think?
Scott Ketchum: I didn’t mind it. It looks like a huge pasta that’s gonna be really dense and filling, but when you bite into it because it’s so hollow in the middle, it really had a lighter bite to it that I thought was kind of a surprise and unique.
Dan Pashman: I agree. But yeah, I feel like all just said about what it good, you could also say about rigatoni. Like to me, when you actually ate it, the square edges, as soon as you bite into it, it just goes flat. And so to me in the actual eating, I don’t know that it was substantially different from any other tube pasta I’ve seen.
Dan Pashman: Over the next month Scott and I go back and forth. He suggests a square tube that also twists, but I still feel that while it looks cool, in practice the square tube isn’t so special. I suggest casarecce, which has become a personal favorite. It’s like a twisting stick with lots of folds. He says he’s seen that one around a little too much.
Dan Pashman: Then Scott sends me a pasta die catalog. You’ll remember the die is like the mold, so this is a catalog of shapes that a die company offers. It’s 90 pages and each page has dozens of variations. You want a tube pasta? How big do you want the diameter of the tube to be? 1.7 millimeters? 2.3? 2.6? There are 19 options.
Dan Pashman: I stay up past midnight looking through the catalog, entranced. Even for the ordinary shapes I become curious about the tiniest details: Would I rather have a short tube with 8 ridges around the outside, or 10? Would you notice the texture of the ridges more if there were fewer of them but they’re bigger? Or more of them but smaller? I digress. After several hours of combing, I still haven’t found anything that looks both really good, and really different. And then, I think I have something…
Dan Pashman: What number is it again? Is the the 163?
Scott Ketchum: Yeah. 163.
Dan Pashman: We don’t know what the name of this shape is. It’s a short shape. The cross section is — like imagine four bucatinis, but they’re cut short.
Scott Ketchum: It’s like a square, but the corners are tubes of bucatini.
Dan Pashman: Bucatini, in case you don’t remember, is like spaghetti with a hole down the middle, an extremely narrow straw.
Dan Pashman: So you get four mini short bucatini tubes, plus the one main square tube all together in every single bite, and the exterior is all bumpy because those little tubes protrude out from the square in all different directions. So I think all those exterior bumps are gonna hold a lot of sauce. Then you have these interior tubes that will hold more sauce and also will be springy in the way that bucatini is springy. I am very intrigued by this shape, Scott.
Scott Ketchum: I am too. Nobody really appears to be making it right now — that we can get our hands on anyway. So it’s a bit of a mystery to me to — I haven’t been able to eat it yet. But it has all the aspects that I like about pasta. It has a lot of areas to capture sauce. Overall, it’s kind of beautiful to look at. It’s kind of a unique feat of engineering again.
Dan Pashman: Yeah, it just — it looks cool. It does not look like any pasta shape I have ever seen. Like in this catalog, even things might have seemed a little different, then, you know, they have 25 versions of it, so suddenly it doesn’t feel so special. There’s no variations of this shape. Like there’s this one version of this mystery shape and there’s nothing else like it in the catalog.
Dan Pashman: Before we commit to this mystery shape, we want to see if anyone’s making it, even in Italy, so we can order it and try it. But right now, we don’t even know what it’s called. We agree to do more research to try to track down some samples. And we gotta do it soon. Last year cascatelli was a popular holiday gift, a lot of people ordered it through Sfoglini’s website. We really want to get these new shapes ready in time to be our featured item this holiday season.
Dan Pashman: Meanwhile, as spring 2022 turns to summer, things are still cranking with cascatelli. The Sfoglini guys are working their butts off focusing on two key goals: Increasing their production capacity, and get cascatelli in more stores. In June, the Specialty Food Association invites us to be on a panel at the Fancy Food Show, at New York’s big Javits Convention Center.
Dan Pashman: And let me tell you, I have been to a few food conventions, I have never seen anything like this. It’s just rows and rows and rows of booths of food companies promoting their products by giving out free samples. There’s a company selling cocktail sauce that’s just handing out shrimp cocktail all day. A Jelly Belly booth with more butterbeer jelly beans than you can fathom. And a whole section of companies from Italy that has those enormous legs of prosciutto, they’re just slicing pieces off and handing it to anyone who walks by. Janie comes with me, she says it’s like Halloween for adults.
Dan Pashman: Anyway, in the middle of these rows and rows of booths is Sfoglini. The first day of the show, it’s me and Scott manning the booth, meeting people in the world of food, with Janie and Scott’s wife Cherisse pitching in. Scott has some good news to share with me:
Scott Ketchum: We’re actually part of the Walmart Open Call, which was a call to American manufacturers that everyone has submitted to a year — almost a year ago. And they finally announced the people they’re gonna see. And we’re one of those people that actually get to go there in person to meet with them.
Dan Pashman: Out of 4500 American companies, Sfoglini is one of 1200 Walmart selected to pitch their product. If the chain gives us the green light and adds Sfoglini pastas, this could double or triple the number of U.S. stores carrying cascatelli overnight. We won’t know anything for months. Meanwhile, Scott’s working on getting cascatelli into other big stores. We’re in 500 now and he’s hoping to get to a thousand by the end of 2022. Some of those are stores that already had other Sfoglini products, and added cascatelli. Scott says about half are totally new for Sfoglini, so stores are picking up cascatelli and other Sfoglini products at the same time.
Scott Ketchum: I may have been talking to some of these stores for a couple of years now, then all of a sudden that’s like, all right, they’re ready to do, make the jump,
Dan Pashman: Scott, we gotta cut to Janie, who’s over here hawking the cascatelli. Remember the one who told us this was a bad idea? Let’s go get live audio of this.
Janie Pashman: Yeah.
Customer: It really holds onto the sauce well.
Dan Pashman: Go on, keep telling — I’m recording audio of you pitching cascatelli.
Janie Pashman: So Dan felt like there were a lot of pasta shapes that had two out of the three, but was really looking for a shape that had all three and so partnered with Sfoglini and so they worked, you know, on a lot of different …
Dan Pashman: I just want to say, I hope you too someday have the experience of your spouse telling you your idea is bad, only to have them become the most eager and effective spokesperson for it. And I hope you too get it on tape, so you can rub it in their faces for decades to come. If there’s a better reason to get married, I haven’t heard it. Anyway, back to my conversation with Scott …
Dan Pashman: I gotta say, it’s exciting for me to be here. I’ve never been to the Fancy Food Show. It’s just when cascatelli went viral, it was so — I mean, it was bananas for both of us.
Scott Ketchum: Mm-hmm
Dan Pashman: I couldn’t tell how much that was like gonna stick. And there was such a lag between when it went viral and when we were actually gonna be able to like, ramp up production get into stores. It’s just the industry moves slowly, even in normal times.
Scott Ketchum: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: And I just didn’t know, like, by the time we’re getting this thing into stores, will anyone remember that weird viral thing that happened? But when I come to a thing like this and all these people are walking up to our booth, like, “Oh, that’s the pasta shape! That’s the thing!,” I’m like, oh, they really did remember, like …
Scott Ketchum: Right. I mean, all of the reviews we get that are posted on the site and everything, there’s — everybody just loves it. And it lives up to everything that you set out to achieve.
Dan Pashman: But, as I’m learning, there’s always more to achieve. It’s great that these big chains are showing interest in cascatelli, but if they start placing orders, Sfoglini’s gotta be ready. It’s crucial for them to upgrade their equipment so they can ramp up production and fast.
Dan Pashman: In one of our updates a while back I told you that they ordered new gear that was originally supposed to arrive in late 2021. But with worldwide manufacturing and shipping delays, it didn’t. The new dryers eventually arrived, but without motors. So Scott has had these shells of machines sitting there, useless, for months.
Dan Pashman: Finally, just a few days before the Fancy Food Show, he gets a message that the dryer motors and a new tray stacker from Italy have arrived on American shores, at a port in New Jersey. All they have to do is put the gear on a truck and drive it a couple hours up the highway to Sfoglini. You see trucks on the highway carrying big heavy things all the time, right? It’s very routine. Well, while we’re at the Fancy Food Show, Scott gets a phone call about the equipment.
Scott Ketchum: It hit a sign going outta the truck yard and they had to backtrack and go back and they have to put it on a new truck bed now. So now we have to wait to really even find one, ‘cause they can’t even find it. They’re in such high demand.
Dan Pashman: A truck, you mean?
Scott Ketchum: A truck — the low — I don’t know what the proper name is.
Dan Pashman: Like a low bed.
Scott Ketchum: A low bed.
Dan Pashman: It’s a certain type of truck.
Scott Ketchum: Mm-hmm. So now they’re looking for that.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Scott Ketchum: It’s a roller coaster.
Dan Pashman: You have to laugh.
Scott Ketchum: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: What else could you do this? That’s — oh, my God. It hit a … In my head, I’m picturing like an overpass took the entire top off.
Scott Ketchum: Luckily from what I’ve heard, it is not that. It just was still just leaving the yard.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Scott Ketchum: So it — and they’re probably going slow, I hope. And — but this was a tank of a piece of equipment, so I don’t think it’s hurt anything.
Dan Pashman: All right.
Dan Pashman: Coming up, Sfoglini gets an update on the equipment, and it’s not what they thought. Plus, we learn more about our mystery shape, and we race to get it ready for the holidays:
Dan Pashman: All right Scott. Let’s get these pasta shapes made.
Scott Ketchum: Let’s do it. Mission: Impossible.
Dan Pashman: Come on, Scott. ImPASTAble.
Scott Ketchum: ImPASTAble.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING]
Dan Pashman: And I take a little trip to Italy. Stick around.
+++ BREAK +++
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman and in our last installment of Mission: ImPASTAble, we shared the story of the creation of Banza’s cascatelli made from chickpeas, which is gluten free. We did a whole deep dive on the science of gluten free pasta and learned about why making it from legumes tends to get better results. I’m happy to report that we’ve gotten a ton of great feedback on the Banza cascatelli, so thank you for that. Remember that it’s available exclusively at Whole Foods nationwide, so you can get it there today.
Dan Pashman: Okay, back to that truck that crashed into a highway sign. There are two things it’s carrying: motors for the new dryers that have been sitting at Sfoglini for months — useless. Those are crucial if Sfoglini wants to ramp up production. Then there’s a tray stacker, which picks up trays of freshly made pasta and stacks them on top of each other so they can go into the dryers. Sfoglini does has one of those but it’s on its last legs, so they’ve been hoping the new one would arrive before the old one gives out.
Dan Pashman: Now, Scott and his co-founder Steve have been getting conflicting reports on how bad the crash was. So the equipment finally gets to Sfoglini, on the back of a different truck, covered by a giant tarp. The two of them take off the tarp and find …
Scott Ketchum: This tray stacker unit that we ordered was completely smashed and destroyed. They must have hit this sign going 60, 70 miles per hour.
Dan Pashman: Ugh.
Scott Ketchum: There are these huge, probably like 6×6 steel beams that are, are the corners of each of the — of the equipment framework, and they’re completely shredded and ripped apart. Like the Hulk tore it in half.
Dan Pashman: What about the dryers?
Scott Ketchum: Well, the dryers were not so tall. So they were unaffected. They were in a secondary crate that did not hit the sign. And we have the crew here right now, putting those together and they’ll hopefully be operational by the end of next week.
Dan Pashman: So you’ll still be able to increase capacity as planned.
Scott Ketchum: Yes. It’s just a little riskier because we’re gonna be pushing everything a little harder than normal. And the tray stacker, the one we currently have is, is unreliable and trays get caught in it quite a bit.
Dan Pashman: You seem pretty, uh, pretty upbeat for this news, Scott. I guess this is just, you have no option, but to laugh?
Scott Ketchum: [LAUGHS] Yeah, it’s very different than I felt four days ago, but I’ve had some time to just sit back and like, what else is gonna go on in this crazy world right now? He realistically said we’re looking most likely eight months. We’re lucky, a little earlier.
Dan Pashman: I just can’t believe it. I mean, after all the waiting for it to get so close to your factory, what a cruel twist. I feel like you should give the tray stack or a name. Does it have a name or a nickname?
Scott Ketchum: I bet Steve has a lot of names that I can’t say on here.
Dan Pashman: It’s going to be eight months — and that’s on top of the year they already waited for this machine! It’s been so long that when Scott goes to order another identical tray stacker, the price has gone from 100,000 euros to 130,000. He’s hoping the trucking company’s insurance pays for the new machine.
Dan Pashman: Now as Scott said, even with this setback, the new dryers do allow them to increase their production by 20 percent. And down the road they can add a second shift, so they could be making pasta around the clock. That is, if their janky old tray stacker holds up.
Dan Pashman: Meanwhile, Scott and I continue researching our mystery pasta shape. Remember it’s a square tube, but each corner of the square is like a little bucatini. We’d both like to eat some of it before we commit to making it. In July, Scott’s made some progress — he’s found out what it’s called.
Scott Ketchum: Even though I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and been to Italy numerous times, my Italian is still terrible. So …
Dan Pashman: Okay …
Scott Ketchum: It’s — I believe it’s called cinque buchi. Buchi.
Dan Pashman: Cinque. And buchi? So let’s see, how to pronounce buchi.
Dan Pashman: All right. It’s two words. Cinque means five buchi means tubes. It’s rooted from the same word as bucatini because a bucatini is a narrow tube …
Dan Pashman: Scott and I agree that the name cinque buchi is a problem. It’s going to be very hard for most Americans to pronounce and remember it. I mean, if I told you how it’s spelled, you would get so confused you’d crash your car. Plus, the cinque, the five, that’s also confusing. Like, yes, there’s technically five holes in the cross section — those four bucatinis plus the larger tube — but I don’t really think about the larger tube. When I look at it, it makes me think four, not five.
Dan Pashman: But even if we come up with a different name for it, we have a bigger problem: We still can’t get our hands on it. As far as we can tell, this shape is not made or sold anywhere in America.
Scott Ketchum: I found a couple of Italian companies, but they’re only available through their websites from Italy. And so the shipping’s about a hundred dollars to get one bag.
Dan Pashman: Good news though, Scott. I’m going to Italy in just a couple days. So I will look for cinque buchi there, and I’ll ask around.
Dan Pashman: That’s right. In late July I head to Italy to do research for my — breaking news — upcoming cookbook of pasta dishes. More on that closer to when it comes out, in 2024. Anyway … as the Italians say, on this trip I will catch two pigeons with one fava bean. Yes, they actually say that. I’ll work on the book, and I’ll also try to find some cinque buchi, or whatever we end up calling it. But we’re up against the clock. We want to have the new shapes manufactured, boxed, and ready to ship in November, ahead of the holidays. That’s just 12 weeks from now.
Dan Pashman: I fly to Italy, and in between four-hour dinners for “research” and walking 18,000 steps a day, I’m also looking for cinque buchi. I search and search but I’m not finding it. I am however finding many Italians eager to talk to me about pasta shapes.
Dan Pashman: Like the owner of the B&B outside Naples where I’m staying with my family, his name is Antonio. Janie and I are chatting with him, and she starts telling him about cascatelli — I told you she’d become its #1 spokesperson! When Janie says, “Dan invented a new pasta shape,” Antonio immediately disappears, then comes back with a bag of pasta for me.
Antonio: This quality is a not simple pasta.
Dan Pashman: Oh, I’m like this shape — so this is one of the two shapes that I wanna make for this fall with Sfoglini.
Janie Pashman: It’s called nodini?
Dan Pashman: I’ve never seen it called nodini. I’ve seen this shape with the name, uh, uh, uh, vesuvio?
Dan Pashman: Without prompting, as we sit with Mount Vesuvius in the distance, Antonio has brought out vesuvio, the other shape we’re working on. On this package it’s called nodini, which means knots. As we’ve learned, sometimes the same pasta shape can have different names. Antonio says not many people in the Naples area eat this shape — most folks prefer to stick to the classics, but he likes it.
Antonio: Because bring more sauce inside and when made with the bronze and with the plastic. With the plastic, the sauce don’t attach.
Dan Pashman: Right. It’s too, too, too liscia.
Antonio: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dan Pashman: Too smooth.
Antonio: And the best? The best — many, many person don’t like the rigato.
Dan Pashman: Who doesn’t like rigato?
Antonio: Because the — when you cook? in the center and outside is a different …
Dan Pashman: Different texture. A little more cooked. A little less cooked.
Dan Pashman: Rigato means ridged. And I agree, ridges hold more sauce. They add texture — what’s not to like about that? As Antonio continues, he starts talking about how the cooking time on a package of pasta tells you a lot about the quality. Better wheat and a thicker, heartier shape require a longer cooking time, and those pastas are the most toothsinkable.
Antonio: Look, this pasta cook in 10 minutes. The industrial pasta is cooked in five minutes.
Dan Pashman: I had actually brought a couple of boxes of cascatelli to Italy for gifts. So I give one to Antonio. He seems perplexed, like he’s looking at a moon rock or something. I point out its long cook time in an attempt to impress him …
Dan Pashman: Yeah. See, look. This, my cascatelli, 13 minutes …
Antonio: But the American …
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Janie Pashman: He doesn’t trust it. You have to try it.
Dan Pashman: Antonio thinks a long cooking time on the package is a sign of quality among Italian pastas, but among American brands, he just sees it as a sign that Americans overcook our pasta.
Dan Pashman: I think maybe for you 12 minutes. Dodici minuti.
Dan Pashman: Di — [LAUGHS] he says 10 minutes. No, no. 10 is no good. No good. He doesn’t trust the American numbers for …
Dan Pashman: Antonio reluctantly accepts the box of cascatelli, and walks away, leaving Janie and me to debrief.
Janie Pashman: It’s so funny. He’s so suspicious. It’s like — but it’s, it’s American. It’s not from Italy.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Janie Pashman: He like doesn’t wanna touch it.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Janie Pashman: I’m like, “No, it’s for you.” He’s like, “No, no, it’s not from Italy.”
Dan Pashman: This is the experience I’ve been getting all across Italy when I tell them I invented a pasta shape. Some combination of …
Janie Pashman: They’re like, oh, you’re cute.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Janie Pashman: Um, so what are you going to see in Italy?
Dan Pashman: So, Italians don’t trust Americans when it comes to pasta. Not a shock. I’m gonna focus on the good news coming out of this, which is that vesuvio is a deep cut shape even in Italy, but the people who know it love it. So it’s perfect for this new project with Sfoglini.
Dan Pashman: But at this point I’ve been to three cities in three different corners of Italy and I still can’t find the other shape, cinque buchi. And like I said, the clock is ticking. The Sfoglini guys have to order the dies and the boxes if we’re going to have this ready for the holidays.
Dan Pashman: Given the time crunch, I’m forced to consider an option that makes me very nervous: Committing to this shape without ever having tried it. Looking back, I really should’ve shelled out the hundred bucks for shipping on the cinque buchi I saw online. But it’s too late for that now. I have no other choice. I give Sfoglini the green light to order the dies.
Dan Pashman: I’m hoping that I’ve tried so many obscure shapes in the last few years that I can tell a good one just by looking at a picture of it. And to me this pasta shape looks fantastic. I honestly don’t understand how it’s not everywhere already. But I don’t know for sure. I mean, it’s a square tube, I tested other square tubes and didn’t think they were that great. Will the extra features on this one make enough of a difference? This feels like a huge risk. Sitting outside at our B&B, I tell Janie the news …
Dan Pashman: We agreed to move forward on cinque buchi, this other shape.
Janie Pashman: Without ever actually eating it or seeing it in person?
Dan Pashman: That’s right.
Dan Pashman: That’s when something amazing happens. Janie tells me I’m making the right decision.
Janie Pashman: Okay. I mean, look, I feel like, it can’t be bad. You know, there’s no — like Sfoglini makes such good pasta that whatever the shape is, it’s still gonna be good. And so, you know, I think it’s — if you found a shape that looks interesting, it’ll still be good.
Dan Pashman: Yeah. Should we put that on the box? “It can’t be bad…”
Janie Pashman: Yeah.
Janie Pashman: Trust us.
Dan Pashman: With Janie’s ringing endorsement, I forge ahead. Scott and Steve order the dies with one key tweak I’ve requested to the cinque buchi. I want to add ridges to the outside. This will increase sauceability, make it look even cooler, and make it different from the only other similar versions of the shape I’ve seen online. So my version of this shape will be rigato.
Dan Pashman: Beyond the dies, we also need to get boxes, which means we need to figure out what we’re calling this shape so they can print the name on the box. As discussed, cinque buchi is a non starter. Instead, I brainstorm names with “quattro” – the Italian word for four. And I want it to sound like bucatini, but quattrobucatini is too long. Steve from Sfoglini comes up with a compromise: quattrotini.
Dan Pashman: I turn to an old friend for a gut check – Laurel Sutton, the naming expert from Catchword who we consulted about the name cascatelli. I ask her about quattrotini.
Laurel Sutton: I like it because it’s different. It’s a unique name. And it’s sort of fun to say quattrotini. You know, it kind of rolls along. It’s got the T’s in succession — quattrotini. There’s a brand of cookies that get sold in the United States that are called Quadrattini. It’s spelled differently. I don’t think that’s a problem. Pasta and cookies are gonna be in two different trademark classes. The crossover between pasta and cookies, I don’t think that that’s gonna cause confusion in the mind of your target audience.
Dan Pashman: I’m looking it up now in the USPTO trademark database, which I have become familiar with in recent years.
Laurel Sutton: [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: And yeah, it’s Loacker Quadrattini.
Laurel Sutton: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: And as you say, like — cause I trademarked cascatelli, when you do that, like — right, it’s trademarked as a pasta.
Laurel Sutton: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: So no one else can call their pasta cascatelli.
Laurel Sutton: Correct.
Dan Pashman: But if Ford wanted to come out with a new pickup truck called the cascatelli couldn’t stop them.
Laurel Sutton: Exactly right. Yes.
Dan Pashman: I mean, that’d be a weird name for a pickup truck.
Dan Pashman: It’s decided: Our new shapes will be vesuvio and quattrotini, the pasta shape formerly known as cinque buchi. And by the way, it’s not that surprising that I wasn’t able to find cinque buchi even in Italy. Scott went down a bit of a rabbit hole and found that it’s only made in Sicily and only during carnival, which is why it’s so rare. Legend has it that the devil uses this shape to tempt people with the sin of gluttony, so consider me Lucifer.
Dan Pashman: Now we just have to get the dies and boxes in at Sfoglini so we can begin production. We’re told everything should arrive in October. And of course it’ll happen on time because there’s never any delays in this world, right? I’ll cut to the chase, you can probably guess, there are massive delays. We keep holding out hope that it’ll come the next week, or the week after. But by early December, we accept that there won’t be new pasta shapes for the holidays.
Dan Pashman: But there is some good news. At the end of 2022, Scott tells me that cascatelli is in about 850 stores — pretty close to his end-of-year target of a thousand. Whole Foods added it in the New York area. Now they tell us they’re adding it nationwide come June 2023. But that’s not the biggest news: Walmart decided to pick up cascatelli and three other Sfoglini shapes. They’re launching in almost 1200 Walmart stores the week! Now, that’s not all Walmarts but it’s a lot, so check your local store or the store locator on Sfoglini’s website.
Dan Pashman: Finally, in early January, samples of quattrotini and vesuvio arrive on my doorstep.
Becky Pashman: Oh my God.
Emily Pashman: Oh my God! It’s from Sfoglini!
Dan Pashman: I cook up the vesuvio first, in a mac and cheese with shrimp and andouille sausage that I’m testing for my cookbook. And the vesuvio is as great as I remembered. It’s a perfect shape with a saucy dish, and that textural contrast between the outer tube parts of the cone and the interior is just totally on point. I can’t wait for you to try it.
Dan Pashman: Then it’s time for the real test — quattrotini — which is still kind of a black box. I’ve never actually seen it in real life, let alone eaten it. The ridges I added to the outside give it that corduroy texture, which looks beautiful and holds more sauce. And I asked Sfoglini to cut it a little longer than the ones we’ve seen in pictures, which will make each piece bigger and, I believe, more toothsinkable.
[PASTA RATTLING IN BOX]
Dan Pashman: And I gotta say, holding it in my hand I have the same thought I had when I saw it in the catalog: This does not look like any other pasta shape I’ve ever seen. For this taste test, I make it for the kids with simple jarred tomato sauce …
Dan Pashman: All right so it’s already a good sign here with the quattrotini. I poured a bunch of sauce into the pan to warm it up and I was like, oh, this is too much sauce. Same thing Claire Saffitz said about cascatelli, I remember, oh my God, there’s too much sauce for this amount of pasta. And now I’ve just stirred in the pasta and I’m like, oh, we need more sauce, that’s how sauceable this is. All right, let’s eat. All right, first ever taste of this pasta shape quattrotini.
Becky Pashman: Mmm. It’s really good.
Dan Pashman: Mmm.
Becky Pashman: It’s perfect in all three categories, like no offense to cascatelli, but …
Dan Pashman: Definitely forkable. Emily, no offense, but you’re the messiest eater in the family. Have you dropped …
Emily Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Have you dropped any pasta off your fork onto your lap yet? Emily’s looking around the floor by her chair. Every bite you’ve taken has stayed on your fork.
Emily Pashman: Mm. Yes.
Dan Pashman: So it’s very forkable. Now the box says 10-12 minutes. I cooked this for 11. I’d probably doing it again I’d cook it for 10.
Emily Pashman: I think it’s perfect, don’t change it.
Dan Pashman: You know, the ridges — it’s funny, we added the ridges to the outside that’s not the way this shape is traditionally made, and I thought it would pick up a little bit of sauce, but you know ridges are also fun in your mouth. You can feel them in your mouth, right?
Becky Pashman: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Mmm. I just ate a quattrotini vertically, it’s like a whole other experience. Girls, try it.
Becky Pashman: Mmm. Mm-hmm. Yes, sir.
Dan Pashman: It functions like an I-beam, it’s like extreme structural support, so when you bite down it’s like especially — it’s max toothsinkability.
Becky Pashman: It’s like a whole different pasta shape.
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Becky Pashman: But in a good way.
Dan Pashman: You gotta realize, I agreed to order this shape and had to commit to this shape without ever having tried it.
Emily Pashman: But I also had never seen it and as soon as it came in the box and I saw the cover, I was like, that pasta looks so good. More please.
Becky Pashman: More please, as well.
Dan Pashman: As I eat the quattrotini I realize that what I love about the three shapes I’m now making with Sfoglini is that they’re all forkable, sauceable, and toothsinkable, but they’re all so different from each other.
Dan Pashman: Janie gets home from work and I hand her a bowl of quattrotini …
Janie Pashman: I love it. I just hope it doesn’t take away from cascatelli sales. Cause does it — you think, it has — it has all three, right? Forkability, sauceability, toothsinkability.
Dan Pashman: I think there’s room in the world for more than one great pasta shape.
Janie Pashman: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: All right. Well, I feel a combination of relief and extreme excitement, because this pasta shape is awesome.
Dan Pashman: With that, I’m pleased to announce that quattrotini and vesuvio are on sale now exclusively through Sfoglini’s website. They are not coming to stores anytime soon. And supplies are limited! Once we sell through the boxes we have, we’re gonna have to wait to get the next ones, and you know how that goes. So order now at Sfoglini.com. That’s S-F-O-G-L-I-N-I-dot-com.
Dan Pashman: And while you’re there, I have something else cool for you to grab. A designer in Brooklyn named Juli Mollo made a cascatelli clutch purse for Scott Ketchum’s wife Cherisse and she loved it so much she said, “We gotta sell these.” So ahead of valentine’s day we have limited edition cascatelli clutch purses, only about 200 available, get yours now at sfoglini.com. And head over to Instagram if you want to see what these new pasta shapes look like, and watch an unboxing video the kids and I made.
CLIP (BECK AND EMILY PASHMAN): Today, we’re gonna be filming the unboxing tutorial. Don’t forget to smash that like and subscribe button …
Dan Pashman: My Instagram is @TheSporkful.