Cascatelli (kas-ka-TELL-lee) is a type of pasta resembling a ruffled waterslide in the shape of a letter J. It was developed in New York by food blogger and podcaster Dan Pashman in conjunction with the New York pasta company Sfoglini. The word cascatelli comes from the Italian word cascate which means "waterfall."
- Category: Extruded pasta
- Cook Time: 13 to 17 minutes
- Main Ingredient: Durum wheat flour
- Meaning: "Waterfall"
- Substitutes: Radiatori, creste di gallo, mafaldine
What Is Cascatelli?
Cascatelli is made from semolina, a flour made of durum wheat, a so-called "hard" wheat high in both protein and gluten content. It was designed to meet three criteria: "saucability," or the ability of the pasta to hold sauce; "toothsinkability," or how satisfying it is to bite into; and "forkability," or how easy it is to pick it up with a fork.
The structure of the pasta, a sort of half-tube curved outward into the shape of a letter J, creates a trough down the middle that can hold the sauce. The ruffles along the edges, as well as the pasta's varying thicknesses at different points, provide textural contrast, or different textures in a single bite. And it's easy to pick up on a fork either using the shovel method or by spearing it, as opposed to long pasta such as spaghetti, which couldn't have been designed with forks in mind.
Cascatelli is an extruded pasta, which are typically shaped like tubes—think of penne, rigatoni, macaroni, and ziti. Because it's extruded, it also means it's only available in a dried form, not fresh. To make extruded pasta, the dough is forced through specially shaped dies that produce the intended shape. In this case, bronze dies are used, which give the pasta a rougher texture. enabling the sauce to stick better. This is a direct contrast to Teflon ones, which produce a smooth, slippery texture that does not hold sauce as well.
Because cascatelli is a new invention, introduced in 2021, it's only available from Sfoglini—it's the only pasta factory with the dies to produce it. And so, at least for now, you can't make cascatelli at home.
How to Cook Cascatelli
To cook cascatelli pasta, fill a large pot with a lot of water and add salt until you can taste it. Bring the water to a boil, add the pasta, and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 13 to 17 minutes, depending on your personal preference for doneness.
The best approach would be to cook it for 13 minutes, taste it, and then continue tasting it every 30 seconds until it reaches the desired doneness, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain well and use immediately.
If you're serving it with a red sauce such as Bolognese, you might want to undercook the pasta just a bit and then briefly finish the cooking in a pan with the sauce. Cooked pasta absorbs liquid due to the expansion of the starch granules, so this technique helps the pasta soak up the sauce while the starch granules are expanding.
It's not every day that a new pasta shape comes out. So substituting a different pasta for cascatelli might defeat the purpose of trying a new pasta shape, especially one that was specifically designed to improve upon all the pasta shapes that currently exist. Still, if you can't find cascatelli, or you're waiting for it to become available online or at your local grocery store, there are a few pasta shapes you could try that might somewhat approximate it.
Radiatori are small, squat extruded pasta shaped liked tiny radiators, consisting of tiny fins that help trap sauce. Creste di gallo is another extruded pasta shaped like the comb on a rooster's head. Mafaldine is a ribbon-shaped pasta with ruffled edges, sort of like a very narrow lasagna noodle.
Other possibilities include campanelle, which is shaped like little bells or flowers, or reginetti, which is another small, ruffled pasta shape. Fusilli, rotini, and bucatini also bear a slight resemblance to at least one characteristic of cascatelli.
Here are a few pasta sauce recipes that would pair well with cascatelli.