We’re back with the latest on cascatelli, the new pasta shape that Dan invented. Now that the chaos around cascatelli’s launch has died down, Dan has to make some big decisions about what to do next — with help from his cousin Carrie and die maker Chris Maldari. Then while Sfoglini upgrades their factory and tries to get the pasta into stores and restaurants, Dan explores other opportunities. Can he land the kind of deal he’s hoping for? Plus: Dan puts his mom to work developing recipes for cascatelli.
Original theme music by Andrea Kristinsdottir. Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Layers" by Erick Anderson
- "Lowtown" by Jack Ventimiglia
- "Narwhal" by Casey Hjelmberg
- "The Cantina" by Erick Anderson
- "Ya Gotta" by Ken Brahmstedt
- "Lucky Strike" by Erick Anderson
- "Small Talk" by Hayley Briasco
- "All Black" by Erick Anderson
Photo courtesy of Dan Pashman.
Becky Pashman: Can we go all the way to Smithtown just to see cascatelli on a shelf in a store because that would be cool?
Dan Pashman: Yeah, I mean, it’s gonna be in stores soon and I think it will be really exciting to actually see it on a shelf.
Becky Pashman: Are we gonna buy some?
Dan Pashman: I don't know.
Becky Pashman: Or are we gonna sit there watch it be on the shelf and act like we have no idea what it is?
Dan Pashman: No, we can take pictures with it, we can — and yes, then we should buy some. How much should we buy?
Emily Pashman: Uh, all that they have.
Dan Pashman: Well, but then we won’t leave any for anyone else.
Becky Pashman: Lifetime supply of cascatelli.
Emily Pashman: It’s like weird. It’s just, like, every single time somebody invents a food who has any family is just like us. And there are so many foods in the world, right? But most of them don’t have their names on it. So, like, obviously, you never know. They could be alive, they could not be alive. Like, maybe when you see, let's say, broccoli in the supermarket? It doesn’t say who created it. And they the creator, the person who created broccoli is standing in front of it and you wouldn’t even know.
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 an update on Mission: ImPASTAble, my three-year quest to invent a new pasta shape, actually get it made, and actually sell it. If you haven’t heard the original series, I highly recommend listening to that, and our first update from back in April, before you listen to this one. Okay, let’s get back in the saddle.
Dan Pashman: That tape you heard at the start of the show was from just a few weeks ago. We’ll make our way to that part of the story. But right now, we’re going to pick up where we left off at the end of our last update, back in April.
Dan Pashman: My pasta had gone viral. The online wait for cascatelli had grown to three months, and my partners at the pasta company, Sfoglini, were having trouble getting enough boxes to put the pasta in. Meanwhile, I had some very big decisions to make about what to do with cascatelli as a business, now that it was clear it’s going to be around for a while.
Dan Pashman: In June, I check in with Steve and Scott, the co-founders of Sfoglini. Sfoglini is a perfect case study for all the COVID-related issues that so many businesses are dealing with. They did just got a big shipment of boxes in, so that problem is solved for now. But they're still struggling to find workers at their factory in upstate New York. Here’s Scott:
Scott Ketchum: I hired five people that never showed up on their first day.
Dan Pashman: You're kidding.
Scott Ketchum: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: They accepted the job and you said, "Okay, you start on this date.", and they said, okay and then they just never came?
Scott Ketchum: Yeah. Yeah, a couple of weeks ago, I talked to me on the phone, wanted directions so they could come for his interview, and he just never even showed up after I gave him directions. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: Maybe you gave them bad directions? Maybe he still looking for the office, Scott?
Scott Ketchum: Yeah, I don't think so.
Scott Ketchum: It just happens too much. It's crazy —
Dan Pashman: Right. Wow.
Scott Ketchum: They don't even answer your calls afterwards to tell you if they took something else or just change their mind or they just ignore you. It’s just been tough.
Dan Pashman: The second issue Sfoglini’s facing? Their equipment is maxed out. Right now, they can run their pasta making machine 7 hours a day, which gets them 5,000 pounds of cascatelli. Now, you say, why not just run the machine longer, make more? Well they only have so many dryers for that pasta to go into once it’s made. When the dryers are full, they have to wait until the next day to empty them. So they need more dryers, and then they need more packing machines to put the dried pasta into boxes, or they’ll have a bottleneck at that part of the process.
Dan Pashman: But supply chain issues around the world are making it very difficult to get what they need. Computer chips and motors have long lead times, cargo shipping is delayed, and the cost of materials is skyrocketing.
Scott Ketchum: Steve's got all the equipment picked out. We're just trying to finish all the financing arrangements for it. And then it's hard because of all these supply chain issues, the estimates only last a few days and then they say they're void and you have to get re-estimated again because they're going to keep charging more and more.
Dan Pashman: Ugh.
Dan Pashman: All told Sfoglini is planning to spend about 750 thousand dollars on new machines, including two new dryers. Steve says taking out the loans for these upgrades is a risk.
Steve Gonzalez: We're building all these things to up our capacity. But then, you know, once you have those things in place, you've got to keep that capacity. When the equipment's on, it's making your money, that's a good thing. You want to keep it running as much as possible.
Dan Pashman: Right. So if you're not selling enough pasta to use all that extra equipment, it's a problem.
Steve Gonzalez: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: But if you do, but you can, then you can make more money than you were making before, and it's good.
Steve: Exactly, yeah.
Scott Ketchum: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: So finding a way to crank out more pasta is a big focus right now. But it’s not the only one. Scott and Steve are also starting to think about how we can get cascatelli into stores, and on restaurant menus. They’re taking the lead on this, since they already deal with that part of the industry for their other pastas.
Dan Pashman: Unless you’re Coca Cola or Barilla, it can be very hard to get a new product on supermarket shelves. Sfoglini was making pasta for years before they even tried to get it into a major grocery chain. Once they started trying, it took them another full year to get in.
Dan Pashman: Most stores want to see that your product is already selling well in other stores. At this point in the summer cascatelli is still only online. The stores don’t care about that. But...
Scott Ketchum: There are other stores that are more daring and want the new items first. So we’re really trying to target those stores. We have stores we perform really well in. That’s our first target is to get cascatelli into locations we’re already in.
Dan Pashman: If those faster-moving stores say yes, even they will take months to start carrying the pasta. I’m starting to realize that this industry is not made for impatient people, people like me. I ask Scott and Steve what the last few months have been like for them.
Scott Ketchum: It's been super exciting, I think with the process over the last few months is the whole online surge and selling had taught us a lot of lessons that we needed to address on our e-commerce site. So we've been really focused on trying to streamline and make sure we can get everything working properly for the future.
Steve Gonzalez: We’re always — we were excited that cascatelli took off but, you know, we were running a factory every day. So — and besides cascatelli, we've had a lot of other increase in business.
Dan Pashman: Thanks largely to cascatelli, sales of Sfoglini’s other pastas are up 29 percent from the same time last year.
Steve Gonzalez: You know, we were just trying to balance everything.
Dan Pashman: You haven't had a whole lot of time to, like, pour glasses of champagne and celebrate, is what you're telling me.
Steve Gonzalez: Uh, yeah, not a lot. No.
Dan Pashman: While the Sfoglini guys are laying groundwork for the future, I need to do the same. I like them a lot. Clearly, they make excellent pasta and they’re great to work with. But I think there’s potential to do something with cascatelli beyond what I’ve done with them. It’s like, I set out to build a nice little sailboat and I ended up with a cruise ship. That’s amazing! Now, I have to figure out what direction to steer it in and start turning that way.
Dan Pashman: For the sake of simplicity, I basically have two options.
Dan Pashman: Option 1: Invest huge amounts of time and money into building a Sporkful brand pasta company. Launch other shapes, maybe launch whole other foods. This would require getting investors and possibly no longer doing this podcast. This option is the most work and most risk, but it’s also the most potential profit. This is the option where, if things go really well, maybe I sell the company in 10 years for a hundred million dollars or whatever. Or maybe it crashes and burns.
Dan Pashman: Option 2: Is licensing. I can license the shape to other companies and let them make it and sell it under their own brands. Less work, less risk, less stress, but also less potential profit. And since I’m not making the pasta myself, less control over quality.
Dan Pashman: After a lot of thought, and conversations with anyone who would give me advice, I’ve made a decision. I call up my old friend, the pasta die maker, Chris Maldari.
Dan Pashman: How's everything going?
Chris Maldari: Good, you know, we're doing all right. I'm trying to squeeze my golf in and somebody told me a long time ago that you have to squeeze a little bit of retirement into every day.
Dan Pashman: Yeah. Well, I took my kids to play tennis for an hour yesterday afternoon. I guess that was my retirement.
Chris Maldari: No. That's not retirement. That's a different kind of enjoyment. But it's not retirement.
Dan Pashman: Right. I guess not. Yeah, yeah.
Chris Maldari: No, no, no. I miss those days. How old are your kids now?
Dan Pashman: 10 and 8.
Chris Maldari: Yeah, see, I miss that time like crazy.
Dan Pashman: Chris regales me with stories about his kids and the time he was on Howard Stern to talk about his line of erotic pasta shapes.
Chris Maldari: It was served at Chuck Norris' bachelor party.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: Eventually, we get down to business.
Dan Pashman: After a lot of consideration and, and more discussions, just sort of taking time to see how the things are starting to play out. I think that for right now, I'm going to go with the licensing option.
Chris Maldari: Right, so that's fine. So let's face it, one of our biggest concern here other than, you know, you seeing your dream is paying for your kid's college education and your wife not getting mad at you, so I think that's a good choice.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Okay, okay. I know — so this is like the least amount of work, lowest lift, but also least risk and I think can still do well financially.
Chris Maldari: Right.
Dan Pashman: And it lets me keep doing my podcast and keep going to play tennis with my kids when they get home from school. The last time we spoke, you were — felt pretty positively about the licensing, but your big concern was how do I maintain quality? Do you have any further thoughts on that? What should I be doing to maintain quality?
Chris Maldari: My concern with the quality wasn't so much of other companies making this product. My concern was watering down the licensing so much that you have a mom and pop place pumping out cascatelli in, with no guidelines.
Dan Pashman: Right. It sounds like part of what you're saying is like, keep that group small.
Chris Maldari: Keep the group small and you have to vet them very carefully.
Dan Pashman: Okay. I think that another thing that I can do to help maintain quality is to make sure that anybody who wants to make cascatelli has to get the die from you and Giovanni.
Chris Maldari: Well, listen, that's always — you know, that's always the correct choice.
Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHING]
Dan Pashman: All kidding aside, Chris says that because he knows everyone in the industry, he can tell me what companies will make good partners.
Dan Pashman: Any other thoughts or advice as I sort of do more, you know, think more about how to license to however many companies I do?
Chris Maldari: Well, I would say you're trying to divide it into the different categories of pasta, right? Meaning something like gluten-free or something, like, organic or, you know, that kind of stuff.
Dan Pashman: In other words, Chris is saying that instead of telling a bunch of companies to just go make cascatelli, I can offer each company something a little different. One could have an exclusive license to make a gluten-free cascatelli. Another can have an exclusive license to make it in Europe, and so on...
Chris Maldari: So if you have these different categories and you can license it out more — to more companies, not to the point where it's 20 companies, but to the point where instead of one or two, it's maybe four or five? That's where you can maximize your, you know, your benefit.
Dan Pashman: And then, Chris has one more bit of advice for me.
Chris Maldari: While you still have things going in a hot way, I can't believe I'm saying this to you, but I would try to come up with another shape.
Dan Pashman: Hmm.
Chris Maldari: I never thought I would say that to you.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] What about the idea of a totally different food. Like, like what if I were to invent a different shape of tortilla chips or something.
Chris Maldari: Mmm... yeah, I mean, tortillas are, you know...
Dan Pashman: I like the idea of getting away from pasta because I feel like a second pasta shape feels predictable. And I understand from the business perspective maybe that’s the lowest hanging fruit. But I like the idea of doing something that feels more of a challenge, as opposed to, oh, he went to cash in on a second shape because he thought he could sell it because the first one sold.
Chris Maldari: My answer would be yes.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Chris Maldari: Yes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Dan Pashman: Yeah, maybe next year. Right now, my focus is still on cascatelli.
Dan Pashman: One of the questions I've been getting a lot is like, oh, can someone else rip off your shape? And I said, well, they can't copy my exact shape. But it wouldn't surprise me to see other companies saying, hey, this guy showed us that there's a hunger out there in general for new and different shapes. We should invent some other shapes. And I could see this leading to a trend of a bunch of new shapes being created. Is that possible?
Chris Maldari: Oh, it's happening. I mean, I've gotten — since yours, I've gotten calls from different companies looking to invent their own shape.
Dan Pashman: Really?
Chris Maldari: Mm-hmm. And it has nothing to do with copying your shape.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Chris Maldari: It's the concept of coming up with a new shape.
Dan Pashman: Yes, you heard correctly — as we speak, other pasta companies that Chris cannot name are actively working on their own inventions. I guess my tombstone will have to include the word, "trendsetter". Chris says, there’s a history of certain pasta shapes coming in and out of fashion.
Chris Maldari: Penne was like the chic shape. Everybody wanted a penne. Right? You'd go into a restaurant that way. And the waiter couldn't get enough of saying penne every time.
Dan Pashman: Right. Right
Chris Maldari: Now, it's cavatappi is the shape. Now everything's cavatappi. So here's a test. What's the difference between penne and cavatappi?
Dan Pashman: Well cavatappi is more interesting, it does more different things.
Chris Maldari: Okay.
Dan Pashman: It's got a corkscrew shape. It's got the tube like penne, but it also has a corkscrew shape along with ridges on the outside.
Chris Maldari: Very good. You started out with that explanation. I thought it was going to be like a typical, you know, high school exam where you're writing, you don't have a clue what you're talking about, but you make up words. And you started out that way. But then you brought it home and you said exactly what it was. So that was good.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] I've turned into a real pasta maker now, Chris.
Chris Maldari: I'm very proud.
Dan Pashman: I know what I’m talking about.
Chris Maldari: I'm very proud of you.
Dan Pashman: So the decision is made. I’ll focus on licensing cascatelli. Chris thinks I’m making the right choice.
Chris Maldari: It uncomplicated your life a little bit, right, in certain ways that you would normally wouldn't be that way if you were going to get, you know, delve into this more and put it more on yourself. But the one thing that it really I loved was that you said it gives you more time to play tennis with your kids. And one day when you're... so I'm 58. My kids are grown and one day you're going to look back and you say, you know what? I'm really glad that I played tennis with them after work, and you're not going to sit back and say, oh, I'm so glad I made all those extra boxes of pasta and I made a lot of money. You're not going to say that. You know, it's a dream of yours. You don't want to lose money because nobody wants to lose money. But if you can be profitable and still have your life? There's nothing better.
Dan Pashman: With the decision made, I set out to explore opportunities. In July, I ink my first deal with Sfoglini! We did have a back of the napkin type deal before, but this is a real contract. They’ll be the only company allowed to sell a semolina cascatelli, in the U.S., under the brand name Cascatelli by Sporkful. Outside of a potential gluten-free cascatelli, nobody else in the U.S. will be able to use the Sporkful name and logo on the pasta. This will be the official original cascatelli.
Dan Pashman: But as Chris Maldari suggested, there’s potential for a few more licenses to round out the business. To complement Sfoglini, I’d like to find a partner that can sell cascatelli at a lower price point. Sfoglini’s pasta in the store is typically 6 or 7 dollars a box, a lot more than most consumers are used to paying. There are a lot of reasons why Sfoglini costs more: they use high quality, American-grown, semolina; they’re a small company so they’re not doing as much volume and they make pasta with bronze dies and dry it slowly. And look, you can taste the difference. I’ve heard from so many of you who are like, “I’ve never had pasta like this and now I don’t think I can go back.”
Dan Pashman: Still, the truth is that most mid-market grocery stores don’t sell pasta that costs 6 or 7 dollars a box. In some places, you can get a pound of pasta for 99 cents. If I want more pasta eaters to have access to cascatelli, I have to find a way to get the price down and get it into some of those stores.
Dan Pashman: But who to license it to? My friends keep saying I should talk to one of the big Italian companies that are in all the supermarkets, but I haven’t heard from those folks, and I wouldn’t really know where to start with them. Plus, people I’ve talked to in the industry say, they aren’t likely to take an idea from outside their company, let alone from an American.
Dan Pashman: Maybe it makes more sense for me to license cascatelli directly to a grocery chain, for their own private label store brand of pasta. As I’m learning, those pastas sell very well. All together, they’re about a quarter of the entire U.S. pasta market.
Dan Pashman: The thing that gives me pause is that I know Steve and Scott aren’t crazy about a private label cascatelli. And I feel a lot of loyalty to them. They believed in this idea when no one else did. They explain their concerns.
Scott Ketchum: Well, at Sfoglini we’ve always tried to bring a premium product to market. So we try to encourage people to buy more local, buy from the U.S., try to buy higher quality food that I think in the long run is better for everyone. But not everyone can do that. Everyone has budgets they have to work with. But the private label pastas can compete or hurt sales with the brands that were brought in. So it’s a constant struggle of managing private label products and branded products.
Dan Pashman: So you’re concerned it would cut into your sales?
Scott Ketchum: It definitely could. It could be mass-produced on a bigger scale, which gets it down to a cheaper price point.
Dan Pashman: I hear what Scott’s saying. But the pasta market is big. Even when Sfoglini gets their new equipment, I don’t know that they can meet the demands of everyone who might want to buy cascatelli in the future. If I can get the shape into more people’s mouths while maintaining a quality level I'm happy with, should I? At a summer barbecue, I take that question to my cousin Carrie Moskowitz.
Carrie Moskowitz: I wanna talk about the growing of your business, and I think you have it under control because I think Sfongili...
Dan Pashman: Sfoglini?
Carrie Moskowitz: Sfoglini — that, too.
Dan Pashman: Carrie is a savvy businessperson, who works in the fashion industry. In fashion, she says, there are designer clothes and then there are more accessible options at a lower price.
Carrie Moskowitz: I think the best way to look at this is that your Sfongiuli [LAUGHS], is the Barney’s and the Net-a-Porter of pastas. And your license to that are gonna go to Wegman’s, Publix, Stop and Shop, everywhere else, where you’ll start seeing profit and everything will come out, that’ll be the Zara and the H&M of the world. It’s like high-low. You have both in your cabinet and it is absolutely doable.
Dan Pashman: To be clear, those big supermarkets Carrie mentioned, I haven’t talked to them. Those are her hypothetical examples of who I could license to. But I get her point.
Carrie Moskowitz: People who really truly care about quality and brand name, they’re gonna continue to go to the designers. And I think people who are very fine with the quality of their foods, which is one portion of people, will probably only buy Sfongili.
Dan Pashman: Sfoglini. But does that screw Sfoglini?
Carrie Moskowitz: No, it doesn’t and I’ll tell you why. If they came to you and said we want to be your exclusive producer, like we’re the only one in the world and we’ll get you X-amount of dollars. That would be one thing. But because they’re a small company and are not able to churn it out and produce, you actually as a businessman are losing business. They can’t scale your business the way you want it to be scaled at this point. So now it’s time for you, as a business owner, who’s put their own money, time, and effort, who wants to get it out to the rest of the world, to start looking elsewhere. It’s the natural next step to growing a business. It’s not a personal thing. It’s business.
Dan Pashman: Carrie suggests licensing to 3 stores to start. Add to that Sfoglini, maybe a gluten-free one — it’s the same approach that Chris Maldari suggested — a select group.
Carrie Moskowitz: And I think three, out of all of the chains in this country, feels like a nice, small, kind of humble start and also being respectful of Sfongili. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: I think Carrie’s right. I decide I’ll look into licensing cascatelli for private labels more seriously. Coming up, I land my first deal and it’s a big one. Plus, I get started on another cascatelli project, with some help.
CLIP (DAD PASHMAN): And how’s Mom holding up?
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): [LAUGHS] She’s just very nervous about all of the responsibility.
Dan Pashman: Stick around.
+++ BREAK +++
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. Recently on the show, I talk with Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS. She’s spent a decade documenting Mexico’s vast and varied food cultures. And in her own life, she’s always navigated between worlds. First, as a Jew growing up in Mexico, and then as a Mexican in America.
CLIP (PATI JINICH): It wasn't until I switched into cooking that I was finally able to make sense of all the pieces of myself.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Did you know when you made that transition to food, that that was part of what you were after?
CLIP (PATI JINICH): No, I was just hungry. I was just hungry.
Dan Pashman: In this show, Pati also takes a peek inside my fridge and reads it like a tarot card. She’s an absolute delight and that episode is up now. Go check it out.
Dan Pashman: Okay, back to the show.
Dan Pashman: While Sfoglini continues to work on getting the official cascatelli into stores and restaurants and I pursue some potential licensing deals, I'm also thinking about another cascatelli project. Each year Sfoglini does holiday gift boxes, they want to do one for cascatelli. We decide the featured attraction of the gift box will be a recipe booklet. Like a paperback pocket guide type book, with about 12 recipes. We'll call it The Cascatelli Companion.
Dan Pashman: Now you may recall that when cascatelli first went on sale, I shared some dishes on Instagram that my mom made featuring the pasta. It was her improvising in the kitchen, taking inspiration from other recipes and adapting them to go with my shape. She did a cascatelli for springtime, full of veggies and fresh herbs; cascatelli pasta salad with roasted tomatoes; cascatelli with shrimp scampi and toasted bread crumbs. Those bread crumbs are so good with this shape, they get in all the nooks and crannies. They add a great crisp.
Dan Pashman: Anyway, now I’ve asked my mom to fine tune and write down those recipes for the booklet. Everyday she’s testing a different one. It’s a big job, so I give my parents a call to check in. I get my dad on the phone first.
Dan Pashman: How do you think it’s going so far?
Dad Pashman: Oh, I like them all.
Dan Pashman: And wait, which one was it last night you did?
Dad Pashman: Last night is mushrooms, cauliflower —
Mom Pashman: No, cauliflower was the night before.
Dad Pashman: Oh, oh, the night before. This was mushrooms and leeks and creme fraiche.
Dan Pashman: Got it.
Dad Pashman: Simple.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Dad Pashman: It's really good.
Dan Pashman: How is mom holding up?
Dad Pashman: [LAUGHS] She's just very nervous about all of the responsibility.
Dan Pashman: Yeah. Well, look she's she's doing a lot. I mean, this is turning into a real project.
Dad Pashman: Oh, it definitely is a project. Sometimes she'll do a like a little bit of the prep early or like wash the mushrooms and stuff like that. But she doesn't really start doing things until later in the day, even early evening. And sometimes it takes a while. I mean, last night, after it was all done and I had eaten it already, mom was still fidgeting, you know, adding a little this, adding a little that. And I — since my responsibility in all this is to clean up, I've finally said, "If you're going to keep messing with that, I'm going upstairs."
Dan Pashman: All right. I'll let you go run your errands. You can put Mom on now.
Dad Pashman: Hold on.
Mom Pashman: Yes?
Dan Pashman: How are you holding up? How's it going there?
Mom Pashman: No, it's fine. You know, the cooking of it is easy for me and it's fun. The anxious part is writing it out in a way that you're going to be happy with and it's clear enough. And I'm just trying to figure out — cause, you know, I don't follow a recipe exactly. There's three different mushroom ragu recipes.
Dan Pashman: Right, you're an improviser.
Mom Pashman: Yes. Plus, seeing Kenji’s picture.
Dan Pashman: Right, Kenji’s posts — this is what inspired you. Kenji Lopez-Alt posted a picture of cascatelli with mushroom ragu.
Mom Pashman: Right.
Dan Pashman: And you said, "That looks fantastic. I'm going to do my own version.
Mom Pashman: No. Well, I was already planning to do mushrooms a long time ago.
Dan Pashman: Oh, well, I'll tell — I'll make sure Kenji knows that you had the idea first.
Mom Pashman: Right, you can also tell him that I disagree with how you prepare asparagus. So, but —
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] How did the cauliflower bacon and sage concept come out?
Mom Pashman: Delicious.
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Mom Pashman: Oh, it's delicious.
Dan Pashman: What made it so good?
Mom Pashman: The cauliflower and the cascatelli is great together. Because the cauliflower sort of nestles into the curls. The bacon is just — you get great flavor and sage and parmesan cheese. I mean, what could be bad?
Dan Pashman: Right.
Mom Pashman: The other thing that I found that dad was saying, "It's not saucy." When the stuff is warm, there's enough sauce. It's not sitting in a pool of sauce, but it's not dry. And one of the things that you can — that works really well with Cascatelli is to drizzle really good olive oil over the over the pasta as you serve it.
Dan Pashman: Just to moisten it up a little.
Mom Pashman: It moistens it. I also think that the pasta water is is a big thing, depending on how much sauce you want. If you put the pasta water in and put the grated cheese in and stir it around? It becomes creamy. Then you toss in the pasta and the veggies and the chunky pieces. And add a little more pasta water and some more cheese. And you've got like — it's a great sauce. Save the pasta water and drizzle with good olive oil.
Dan Pashman: Okay. I've really been resolving lately. I never reserve the pasta water. I know it's a thing. It's like starchy, salty water that you can use to thicken your sauce.
Mom Pashman: Yes.
Dan Pashman: And I just like, never think to do it. And just in the past few weeks, I've have been trying to remember to do it.
Mom Pashman: Yeah. Well, Dad once threw the pasta water out. It was a capital offense.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Mom Pashman: And in fact, Suzanne Boyer was here. They were here for dinner and they said, "Okay... it's okay, Linda, really.
Dan Pashman: They had to talk you off the ledge?
Mom Pashman: They did. They did.
Dan Pashman: Janie was trying to talk with you last night and she said that that you said you couldn't talk because you were too stressed cooking. I just want to make sure that you're not too stressed.
Mom Pashman: Oh, I didn't say stressed. I just wanted to get it done. I mean, I play pickleball. I didn't get home till 5:30. I had the mushrooms washed. I happen to like to be in the kitchen at night. I don't mind. And it did take a little longer than I expected, but that's sort of typical.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Mom Pashman: So no, I'm not stressed, sweetie.
Dan Pashman: OK.
Mom Pashman: I'm good. I'm proud.
Dan Pashman: You're doing great. The recipes look great. I'm so excited.
Mom Pashman: Oh, good. Well, I hope I write them out clearly enough and you approve.
Dan Pashman: All right. Love you, talk to you later.
Mom Pashman: Love you.
Dan Pashman: Bye.
Mom Pashman: Bye.
Dan Pashman: In addition to the recipes my mom is developing, the folks at Sfoglini are coming up with a few of their own for the booklet, including a double pork ragu. Janie is fine tuning her cascatelli mac and cheese, which is phenomenal, that’s also one that uses bread crumbs to fantastic effect. And the cookbook author Andrea Nguyen is adapting her mapo tofu spaghetti recipe specifically for cascatelli. That is my favorite way to have it.
Dan Pashman: As summer turns to fall, it seems the gift box is under control. But how are things at Sfoglini? Well, all that new equipment they were expecting in November is now supposed to arrive in February. And they're still struggling to hire new staff. But as of October 1st, the wait for cascatelli is down to just two weeks! And people are still ordering. We even seem to be getting some repeat orders. People who devoured four or eight pounds of cascatelli and are ready to get their hands on more.
Dan Pashman: And then, we get the news we've all been waiting for, hoping for, about Sfoglini’s Cascatelli by Sporkful getting into stores. For the big announcement, here’s Scott:
Scott Ketchum: Well, we know for sure that we will be in the fresh market starting — the date I was given was October 8th, we should be on the shelf.
Dan Pashman: [SIGHS] Scott is very good at running a pasta company, but as a hypeman, he could use some help. Engineer Jared, please prepare our monster truck rally announcer settings. For this big announcement I was thinking something more like this…
Jared: [AUDIENCE CHEERING] "OCTOBER 8TH - 8TH - 8TH. IN THE FRESH MARKET - MARKET - MARKET. GET READY FOR CASCATELLLIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!"
[JOCK JAMS MUSIC]
Dan Pashman: The Fresh Market is similar to Whole Foods. They already carry other Sfoglini pastas, and they tend to be a bit faster and pick up new items, so Scott targeted them early. They have 170 locations up and down the eastern half of the U.S., so this feels like a really big deal. And Scott says this’ll give us a chance to establish a track record in stores. If cascatelli does well in Fresh Market, we can take that sales data to other chains.
Dan Pashman: Next I ask Steve, who you’ll recall is a trained chef, about the efforts to get cascatelli in restaurants. What are his chef friends telling him?
Steve Gonzalez: Yeah, everyone's been asking me to send them pasta for sure. People I haven't heard from in a long time have been reaching out, but uh...
Dan Pashman: Everyone's coming out of the woodwork for all Old Chef Steve now, huh?
Steve Gonzalez: Well, not for me. It's for Cascatelli.
Dan Pashman: Well, that must feel good, though?
Steve Gonzalez: Yeah, I mean, I think people got — you know, people are excited to try it. We have a — sent some samples out to some of our chef friends. We've had a good response.
Dan Pashman: Good good.
Steve Gonzalez: One saying is, "It's not as gimmicky as I thought, it's actually really good.", it's kind of been the consistent response.
Dan Pashman: So cascatelli will soon be in restaurants! In fact, I hand picked a few places around the country to get it first. Last week, it made its debut at Luella’s Southern Kitchen in Chicago. Chef Darnell there? He's making Crawfish Carbonara with cascatelli. I shared a video of it, it looks ridiculous. Now, it’ll still be a month or two before restaurant distributors start to stock it and you see it on more menus. Follow me on Instagram and I’ll let you know about all the restaurants and smaller shops that have it when it happens.
Dan Pashman: Meanwhile, I’m still working on Europe. I’ll keep at it. And if you’re a European pasta company? Call me.
Dan Pashman: So this big cruise ship is turning. At times it feels like it’s taking forever. Then I remind myself that the pasta went on sale less than 8 months ago. As I’m learning in this industry, that’s nothing. My baby is still, a baby.
Dan Pashman: But it’s hard not to wish the time away, you know? Wondering who little cascatelli will take to prom, where they’ll be when I’m old and grey. I was curious what Steve and Scott see for themselves when they look into the future.
Dan Pashman: Where would you love to see Sfoglini in five or ten years?
Scott Ketchum: I would love to see Sfoglini have the equal coverage all around the U.S. that we do on the east coast right now. We have a lot of people that we know are excited about the pastas we produce here and it’s just a matter of working out the logistics to get it to everyone around the country, which takes time. So having a pasta, like cascatelli, is definitely helping that and the excitement around it makes more people aware of us and enables us to get our distribution out there more quickly.
Dan Pashman: Well, I can tell you one thing that I’ve heard from a lot of folks who have tried it is, they’re like, I have never tasted pasta like this. Yes, some of the reaction to cascatelli is that it’s a really good shape but some is also that people just haven’t eaten a pasta of this quality before. My hope for you guys is that you someday create a high end pasta market in America. In the same way that Grey Goose and Patron created a high end vodka and tequila. Tequila used to be like motor oil. You know, it was you bought Jose Cuervo, it was $20 for a bottle and then Patron came along and said we’re gonna charge $45, and everyone said you’re crazy. And they said well, taste it. And look at them now. Now look at George Clooney. In 2013 he and his buddy started this high-end tequila brand. Four years later, they sold it for, literally, a billion dollars. That doesn't happen without Patron creating the category first. That is what I hope for Sfoglini.
Steve Gonzalez: I’ll take some of the George Clooney looks and money, too.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] That’s very noble of you Steve. I don’t think that it would involve any exchange of looks, just so we’re on the same page here.
Steve Gonzalez: Probably not, I mean, one could hope though.
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Steve Gonzalez: Or I guess, I’d have enough money I could find somebody to make me look like him.
Dan Pashman: There you go, now we know where you really want to be in 10 years, on a yacht with George Clooney’s face.
Dan Pashman: While Steve and Scott work out their plan for high-end pasta domination and face transplants, some more news breaks. On October 4th, my phone starts blowing up. My social media is blowing up. What is it?
CLIP (TRADER JOE'S PODCAST): We also have the cascatelli, which is— which kind of looks like these beautiful waterfalls. They ridges are really thick and it eats really, really well.
Dan Pashman: This clip is from the Trader Joe’s podcast. Yes, Trader Joe’s has a podcast. I didn’t know the announcement was coming, but it’s true! My second licensing deal to date is with Trader Joe’s! Their version of cascatelli will be made in Italy, with a bronze die, sold under their brand name, like pretty much all their products. It’ll be in stores early next year. When this news goes public, it's a very strange feeling. I bring it up on a walk with Janie.
Dan Pashman: So in the Trader Joe’s podcast, yesterday, they mentioned very briefly in passing that they’re going to have cascatelli. And it’s like, so many people are reaching out, they're like, this is so exciting, congratulations. They keep congratulating me. Obviously, I’m super excited. But is it weird, part of me feels a little bad about it. Like yes, I put in three years of work and whatever and it was a long thing that I was very invested in. But there are people who spend 10 years, and it’s their whole life’s work to create a food, to someday have the opportunity to have it in a major store like Trader Joe’s.
Janie Pashman: It’s like a product version of impostor syndrome, like do I deserve this?
Dan Pashman: Yeah. Is it weird that I feel that way?
Janie Pashman: I guess, it’s not weird. I mean, I don’t think you should feel that way because you worked hard and you have a good product and it’s a little bit of luck and it’s a combination of everything. But you put in the time and the research, you know?
Dan Pashman: All right, so we can celebrate.
Janie Pashman: Yeah, definitely.
Dan Pashman: When the news breaks, the Sfoglini guys are gracious. Steve calls me up to say congratulations. He knows what a big deal this is.
Dan Pashman: Then, just a couple days later, the whole family piles into the car. It’s time for a trip to The Fresh Market…
Dan Pashman: All right, ready?
Janie Pashman: Wait. All right.
Dan Pashman: Here we are. Let’s do it. Let’s find some cascatelli.
Emily Pashman: Okay.
Dan Pashman: The fam and I drive out to Smithtown on Long Island, about 20 minutes from our house. That’s the closest location to where we live.
Emily Pashman: It says pasta and sauces, right here. [GASPS] Wait, that's other stuff. [GASPS] I found it!
Dan Pashman: You found it.
Emily Pashman: Yeah!
Janie Pashman: Oh, my God! There it is!
Dan Pashman: There it is, it’s in an actual store. The girls are bowing to the cascatelli — you don’t need to bow to cascatelli.
Dan Pashman: It’s really exciting to see cascatelli on the shelf, and also just surreal because it’s something I’ve pictured in my head so many times over the last few months and now it’s right there in front of me. But it’s also a bit of a reality check to see it tucked away, just two boxes facing out, one of literally thousands of products in this big store. How many people walk by every day without even noticing it?
Dan Pashman: Now the question for the family is, how many do we buy? Do we wipe ‘em out, to drive up sales figures? Or since I can get them whenever I want, do we take none, to leave them for others? In the end I tell the girls they can each buy one box.
Dan Pashman: Oh, thank you. Janie is restocking. She’s pulling the ones in the back up to the front.
Becky Pashman: I was about to do that.
Janie Pashman: There’s only two left.
Dan Pashman: Only two left.
Dan Pashman: How many do you want to — they may be more in the stockroom. But I want people to be able to get it.
Becky Pashman: I wonder how many were bought already?
Dan Pashman: What do you think? What are your thoughts about seeing cascatelli on the shelves for the first time?
Becky Pashman: It’s cool because it feels like it’s like a real, real pasta now.
Janie Pashman: Some real street cred.
Emily Pashman: It’s very cool but I can’t really explain it, like in the moment but it’s cool.
Dan Pashman: Well I’ll take it, thank you.
Becky Pashman: It's your pasta, what do you think about seeing it on the store for the first time?
Dan Pashman: Honestly, the thing that makes it most special is coming here with you guys and seeing that you’re excited. That’s what makes me happiest.
Janie Pashman: Would you be upset if I got some bucatini? It’s on sale.
Dan Pashman: Of course, you’ll always get the best price on Sfoglini’s website, and the wait is down to just a couple weeks. That’s also where you’ll find our Limited Edition Cascatelli Holiday Gift Box, which is on sale as of today! You get four boxes of cascatelli, the recipe booklet, a.k.a. my mom’s magnum opus, and a very cute dish towel that says “Put some cascatelli in my belly.” Order it this week and you should get it in time for Hanukkah, definitely in time for Christmas. Order now at Sfoglini.com. That’s S-F-O-G-L-I-N-I .com.
Dan Pashman: If you want more regular updates on where to find cascatelli, what stores and restaurants are starting to carry it, follow me on Instagram, @TheSporkful and subscribe to our newsletter at sporkful.com.dot/newsletter. Thank you so much for your support.
Dan Pashman: Next week on the show, I sit down with the vegan cookbook author Bryant Terry. People have lots of different reasons for going vegan. Bryant was inspired by the Boogie Down Productions song, “Beef.” Now, after writing five cookbooks, he says his latest is his last. Find out why, hear that conversation next week.