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The shapes of pasta, both newly discovered and old reliables


By Murray Schulman

In recent months I have been seeing and hearing about different and uniquely shaped pastas. There are two that caught my eye. One is new to many of us here in the Italian American community. It is apparently “one of the staple Italian egg pastas typical for Emilia-Romagna region and enjoyed all over the world,” according to an article first published in 2018 and later updated in 2019 by “Italian Recipe Book.”

This pasta shape is called garganelli. It is shaped much like penne, yet it is very different from penne or even penne rigate. Garganelli is an egg pasta with a visible seam along the length. It has ridges that run perpendicular to length. Penne rigate is an eggless pasta, it has no seam and is solid all around. Plus, the ridges run along the length.

The second style of pasta that I was curious about is cascatelli. Dan Pashman, host of the “Sporkful” podcast, is said to have created this new pasta shape after three years of trial and error. The driving force behind this effort by Pashman was to be able to create a pasta shape that met three key criteria of great pasta. According to Pashman, cascatelli meets all three. Sauce readily adheres to his pasta, it is easy to get onto a fork and have it stay there and finally it is satisfying to bite into.

I have not seen either of these pasta styles on mainstream supermarket shelves. I haven’t really looked into availability in the area specialty stores. I have seen a few varieties of these pastas available online. I understand that Pashman is selling the cascatelli online and I found that it is available under the SFOGLINI brand at Giant in North Wilmington and at Whole Foods in Glen Mills, Pa.

Both the pasta styles are interesting, novel, eye-catching and certainly unique. I’ll purchase each of these if for no other reason other than to satisfy my curiosity about the claims that they are promoting.

On the other hand, I cannot leave you with just this description of “snazzy” new packaged pasta.

All of you know that Liz and I have a love affair with “old-school” freshly made pasta. I recently got the urge and tried a slight variation on one of my pasta recipes. I used the big mixer to make the kneading process easier. But I skipped pulling out the pasta machine and went with a rolling pin and a sharp knife. The recipe is very straightforward and standard.

I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this process. You will be shocked at how relaxing it is to work in this way. If you have never tried making fresh pasta, it is a must try, at least once experience. Cooking this style of fresh pasta is very easy. Bring 6 quarts of water to the boil, add two tablespoons of kosher or sea salt. While the water is at a full boil, drop the pasta loosely into the pot while gently stirring to keep the strands from clumping. This pasta will take eight to 10 minutes to cook al dente. It may be incorporated easily into any sauce that you choose and will not break down while finishing the dish. I sincerely hope that you will try making pasta in this way. It is a great project for the whole family.

Pasta dough recipe
 Whole eggs beaten – 
 All-purpose flour – 2.5 cups Semolina – half-cup
 EVOO – 1 tablespoon Kosher or sea salt – 1 teaspoon

 1. If you are using your mixer to knead the dough, use the mixing bowl to combine the beaten eggs, oil and salt. Mix well by hand to combine.
 2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and semolina.
 3. Gradually add the flour/semolina mixture to the egg mixture in the mixing bowl while working the mixture with your hands.
 4. Work by hand until a rough dough forms.
 5. At this point, attach the bowl of dough to your mixer and attach the dough hook.
 6. Turn on the mixer to a medium-low setting and begin the kneading process.
 7. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes.
 8. You will need to be there to scrape the bowl often and keep the kneading even.
 9. Suddenly, a dough ball will form. Immediately turn off the mixer.
 10. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead the ball for two or three minutes by hand.
 11. Finish the dough ball by squeezing at the base.
 12. Place the dough ball in a floured bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes to an hour.
 13. After the resting period, turn out the dough onto a flat floured surface.
 14. Divide the dough into four even pieces. Work one piece at a time keeping the remaining pieces covered.
 15. Shape the piece of dough into a rough rectangle shape by hand.
 Be sure to keep the dough and the work surface well-floured.
 16. Using the rolling pin, roll the dough into a thin rectangular shape approximately 8 inches long, 4 inches wide and one-eighth-inch thick. 
 17. Again, flour the surface of the dough and fold the dough in half along the length.
 18. Check that the dough is still well floured and fold in half again along the length.
 19. Using your sharp knife, cut the dough into quarter-inch-wide slices from end to end with the knife parallel with the short end of the dough.
 20. Line a sheet pan with wax or parchment paper.
 21. Unfold the strips of dough into long strands of fettuccini / tagliatelle and lay it out the long way on the lined sheet pan.
 22. Cover the pasta and repeat the process with the other three pieces of dough.
 23. This will yield about a pound of delicious freshly made pasta. 

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