Why are there so many different pasta shapes? It's still the same damn dough in the end, so why should you care if it's angel hair, or fettuccini, or spaghetti, or tagliatelle, or vermicelli, or bucatini; or penne, or tortellini, or rigatoni, or macaroni, et cetera?
I, for one, had never really thought about it. No offense to pastas, or Italians; it's all tasty to me, so I just kinda go with the flow.
But, as I learned from this recent NPR segment on the inventor of cascatelli, the newest entry in the pasta pantheon, there is a lot that goes into just shaping those deliciously rehydratable slices of dough:
"Spaghetti is just a tube," he tells Morning Edition. "After a few bites, it's the same." And its round shape means it's not great at holding on to sauce.
To come up with his own shape, he bought, ate, studied and catalogued all kinds of existing pasta. "I brought together attributes from different shapes that I especially like that have never been brought together in this way before," he says.
Cascatelli is short, with a flat strip and ruffles that stick out at a 90-degree angle. The ruffles give the shape texture, Pashman says.
"That right-angle element is really key to what I think makes this shape different," he says. "There are very few pasta shapes that have right angles. It provides resistance to the bite at all angles. It creates kind of like an I-beam, and that makes for a very satisfying bite."
It certainly makes sense that so much thought would go into such a thing. I just never thought about how much thought was involved. But this is actually pretty fascinating!
For Pasta Lovers Bored By Spaghetti, There's A New Short, Wavy, Sauce-Holding Shape [Heidi Glen and Rachel Martin / NPR Morning Edition]
Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons