“Literally all pasta shapes are wonderful except bucatini. Bucatini can go get effed.” Francis Lam’s strongly-worded tweet inspired Dan to organize a live event in 2018, where he, Francis (host of The Splendid Table), and Evan Kleiman (host of Good Food) could debate the merits of various pasta shapes. It was called “The Bucatini Dialogues” — and yes, it was the night when Dan first announced his intention to invent a new pasta shape. But now, for the first time, we’re airing the rest of that conversation. We cover a range of shapes and tackle the tough questions, like: Why would you ever use a penne without ridges? Is there a time and a place for overcooked pasta? And what’s the best approach to eating a bowl of ramen?
This episode contains explicit language.
Original theme music by Andrea Kristinsdottir. Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Star Shootin'" by Hayley Briasco
- "Dilly Dally" by Hayley Briasco
- "Hound Dog" by Jason Mickelson
- "All Black" by Erick Anderson
- "New Old" by James Thomas Bates
Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Lizarraga.
Dan Pashman: This episode contains explicit language.
CLIP (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. And we're coming to you live from Caveat in New York City!
Dan Pashman: Way back in June 2018, I organized a live event in New York called, “The Bucatini Dialogues: A Debate About Pasta Shapes.” Now this might sound familiar to you. This was where I kicked off Mission: ImPASTAble, my quest to invent a new pasta shape, actually get it made, and actually sell it. We even played a little bit of the tape from this live event in the first episode of Mission: ImPASTAble. But most of it has never seen the light of day until now.
Dan Pashman: Joining me on stage were Francis Lam and Evan Kleiman who, unlike me, are both trained chefs. Francis hosts The Splendid Table podcast and radio show, and he’s the editor-in-chief at Clarkson Potter, the cookbook publisher. Evan hosts Good Food on KCRW in Los Angeles, and she owned one of LA’s top Italian restaurants for more than 25 years. Of course, she was also my pasta spiritual advisor during Mission: ImPASTAble.
Dan Pashman: The idea for the event was inspired by something Francis tweeted, about how he hates bucatini. You’ll hear more about that. But that tweet got me thinking: Let’s explore lots of existing pasta shapes and debate their merits. I can lay out the three criteria that I would use to judge my pasta shape. You all know it by now: forkability, how well the shape stays on your fork; sauceability, how well it holds sauce; and, of course, where would we be without toothsinkability, how satisfying it is to sink your teeth into.
Dan Pashman: We could cover everything from spaghettoni, which is an extra thick spaghetti, to wagon wheels. Discuss how they’re used, what they go with, and which ones should go straight into the garbage. And the truth is, we didn’t talk much about other shapes in our original pasta series. So I am very really excited to share this with you now. Okay, let’s travel to Caveat in June 2018, a basement club on New York’s Lower East Side.
Dan Pashman: I want to allow our listeners to get to know you guys a little bit more and to understand your particular connections to pasta. Evan, tell me about a particular formative pasta dish in your life.
Evan Kleiman: I would say it was when I was in my early 20s, maybe barely 20, and I was lucky. I was on like my third trip to Italy. And I was hanging out with some friends in San Remo and I was on the beach. And I got hungry and I was with a friend of mine, who's Italian, and he said, "Oh, let's go get something to eat." And so I'm looking for the, you know, the frozen banana stand being from Los Angeles. And he said, "No, let's go have a nice plate of spaghetti alla vongole." And I'm like, "They have that here at the beach?", and so we go up to a thatched roof restaurant where everybody sitting in the restaurant in their bathing suits. And I was served this bowl of linguine alla vongole, which is linguine with clams, with garlic, wine, parsley, lemon juice. And I would — that was just it for me.
Dan Pashman: And what do you mean, like why was that so significant?
Evan Kleiman: It blew my mind. Well, the whole experience was this coming together of high food craft that was obviously geared to a culture — attached to a culture embedded in the sensuality of summer in Italy at the beach. So it was like a seamless whole, a beautiful little bubble that crashed over my, you know, Los Angeles raised in the ‘60s, not anything like that at all.
Dan Pashman: How is your life different today because of that bowl of pasta?
Evan Kleiman: I went home and I had to figure out how to make it. When I started traveling to Europe and tasting things and then coming home and wanting to reproduce them, it sort of put me in a different place, a different level of obsession and also an understanding of where my heart really lay, even though I went on to get a B.A. in Italian literature and film and an M.B.A.
Evan Kleiman: Yeah. And then I ended up having a restaurant, right?
Francis Lam: A short dalliance with the rest of the world.
Dan Pashman: Did you put that M.B.A. to good use?
Evan Kleiman: Well my restaurant’s closed.
Dan Pashman: Francis, tell us about a formative pasta dish in your life.
Francis Lam: You know what's crazy? Is my answer is also linguine alla vongole.
Evan Kleiman: I love this so much.
Dan Pashman: Wow.
Francis Lam: You know, I grew up the child of Chinese immigrants in suburban New Jersey and... One cheer for suburban New Jersey.
Francis Lam: Exactly one woop.
Francis Lam: I grew up, you know, one of two Asian kids in my elementary school. I always felt weird. I always felt different. I didn't really belong. And then my parents worked in Chinatown here in New York City, which is the neighborhood right over from Little Italy. And I would come out to their work like we didn't have...
Evan Kleiman: Childcare?
Francis Lam: Yes, or things to do as a child. So, when it was summertime, like, what are you doing today? “Mommy, can I come to work with you and literally sit in your workplace for 10 straight hours and not do any goddamn thing?” Yeah, that sounds great. I'm going to do that. But the highlight was that we would go out to lunch and sometimes we would go to Little Italy. And when we went to Little Italy, we would — if we were feeling high on the hog, we would go to a place called Il Cortile, which means the courtyard. And it was this beautiful courtyard. You know, it was like, you know, for a Little Italy restaurant, it was like really quite beautiful. And there was an indoor courtyard and a skylight and it felt like you were in some alfresco place. I didn't know those words. I had never been to Italy. I'd never seen pictures of Italy, but felt like I was somewhere else. And the food came out and my parents would order for me and we got linguine alla vongole every single time because it was noodles and seafood, which is food we understood as Chinese people, but white people ate it. So when I would eat linguine alla vongole or as my mom would call it, linguine with white clam sauce, I felt like maybe I can belong.
Dan Pashman: And how did those experiences eating in that restaurant — how is your life different today because of those experiences?
Francis Lam: I became a white person. It's great. You can see the stuff I can do now.
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Now, we weren’t just there to share happy memories of the pasta of our youths. The whole point of the evening was to debate pasta shapes, to argue. Like I said, the idea for this event came from something Francis had tweeted about how much he hates bucatini. Bucatini, in case you need a reminder, is like a thick spaghetti but hollow down the center. So it's almost like a narrow drinking straw. And why does Francis hate it?
Francis Lam: Have you ever tried to use a drinking straw?
Evan Kleiman: You can't...
Francis Lam: Have you ever tried — you suck the drinking straw into your mouth? It is physically impossible because it's not solid and there's a goddamn hole in the middle. Everybody says, that's the beauty of bucatini. You get sauce in the middle. Fuck bucatini and the sauce in the middle. You can't get the goddamn thing in your mouth!
Dan Pashman: So Francis says you can’t slurp bucatini because it’s hollow. But Evan wasn’t going to let Francis have the last word.
Evan Kleiman: This is what I love about bucatini, is you will go to restaurants in Rome and you will see men — businessmen, wearing beautiful white starched shirts, order a plate of bucatini all'amatriciana, which is like a...
Francis Lam: Perfect in every way, except for...
Evan Kleiman: A lot of oil, a lot of tomatoes. So there's a very high percentage that you will get that on your body, which for an Italian man is like not a good thing. And you see them take their ties and flip them over their shoulder and hunch over that bowl and carefully twirl, not like a child's spaghetti fork filled with pasta, but like a couple noodles. And then delicately, for a man, put it in their mouths and chew. Nobody is trying to slurp it because everybody knows you can't suck up a straw.
Francis Lam: I don't see why this is my problem.
Dan Pashman: Why do you think that slurping is your preferred technique of eating a long noodle?
Francis Lam: That feeling... like, look, you're inhaling the pasta, right, in this like almost literal way. You're taking it in. You’re one with the world. How many breathing exercises have you done today?
Evan Kleiman: None.
Francis Lam: Om.... You're taking in from... You're taking what the earth is giving you. You're feeling oneness and gratitude. And you can do that while getting pasta in your mouth at the same time.
Dan Pashman: Well, but another argument for slurping, Francis, might be that with noodle soups, let's say, with Asian noodle soups, one of the advantages of slurping is that it creates a sort of virtuous cycle of airflow. You know a lot people think you smell with the front of your nose when you when you taste. But actually, the smell that you mostly taste with is in the back of your throat. It's the aromas going up the back of your throat into your nose, which is why slurping soup makes it taste better. So I wonder if the fact that you can't start bucatini is a problem for that reason? It doesn't have that Asian noodle soup advantage. Evan, how do you respond?
Evan Kleiman: Well, I do find it fascinating. I just started thinking about it as we're talking that most Asian noodles are long noodles for the most part.
Francis Lam: For the most part, yeah.
Evan Kleiman: For the most part, there's no wagon wheels. There's no quills. There's no fusilli, which I think is the stupidest shape ever.... So if you grow up, did you grew up starting with noodles?
Francis Lam: Yes.
Evan Kleiman: In broths often?
Francis Lam: Mm-hmm. Often, yeah.
Evan Kleiman: So I would understand that you have a slurping constitution.
Dan Pashman: Do you think there's some merit to that idea, Francis?
Francis Lam: I think it's probably valid. I think certainly for my psychological like frame of reference...
Evan Kleiman: The comfort things.
Francis Lam: Yeah, I think, uh, it is true that most noodles I grew up with are slurpy-type noodles.
Dan Pashman: If there's another shape that can be just as toothsinkable as bucatini, that would be more forkable then it's better than bucatini.
Evan Kleiman: Spaghettoni.
Dan Pashman: Okay. So then...
Evan Kleiman: But it's not better. It's just another shape. I mean, it's like if you look at the dictionary, the vocabulario, if you will...
Dan Pashman: Now you're just making up words
Evan Kleiman: Of Italian pasta shapes, it's just this incredible expression of human ingenuity with the simplest ingredients possible and fantasy, just playing. So sometimes they're really, really fun shapes that have excellent forkability. But you don't necessarily want to eat them all the time, like wagon wheels. Wagon wheels, for most of us, we haven't had them as adults. But, you know, every once in a while, I have them and I'm like, wow, this is such a great shape. Why don’t I eat this more often? But then I just don't.
Francis Lam: Like most traditional pasta shapes have a traditional sauce that they're paired with were regional and like this was the sauce of our region...
Evan Kleiman: Mm-hmm.
Francis Lam: What's the traditional way to eat wagon wheels?
Evan Kleiman: Well, either in broth or with, strangely enough, with a like a creamy ragu. So when it's in the bowl, you see the little bits of browned meat, like the separated pieces of meat, that are held together with the sauce. They cling to the insides of the spokes.
Francis Lam: I feel that.
Evan Kleiman: And it's just really fun to eat.
Dan Pashman: Is the wagon wheel like a legit old school shape?
Evan Kleiman: Yeah, it's called the rotelle. It's an actual Italian shape.
Dan Pashman: And what is the wagon like — I got — it's hard for me to get behind the wagon wheel.
Evan Kleiman: Sorry.
Francis Lam: What's your problem with the wagon wheel?
Evan Kleiman: What do you like? What do you like?
Dan Pashman: It doesn’t it turn mushy?
Evan Kleiman: Do you have macaroni and cheese al dente?
Dan Pashman: When I can.
Evan Kleiman: That's weird.
Dan Pashman: Why would you ever turn down toothsinkability when you could have it, Evan?
Evan Kleiman: Well it's just a different kind of food. Even within Italy, the way people like their pasta cooked varies region to region.
Dan Pashman: In some of the research we've done on The Sporkful, you know, sensory scientists say that research shows that we like dynamic contrast in bites. We like bites that have multiple textures together in the same bite.
Francis Lam: Sure.
Dan Pashman: One of the problems with a lot of symmetrical pastas is even if it's cooked just right. It might be the perfect toothsinkability, but every bite will be the same.
Francis Lam: Sure.
Dan Pashman: That's why I think maybe there's not enough asymmetrical pastas out there. What do you guys think?
Evan Kleiman: I think that's interesting. I — most of the pastas I find myself eating are definitely symmetrical. But I do love eating things in which every bite is slightly different. Give me an example of an industrial shape. Like ellicoidi. Have you ever seen those? They're like a more modern shape. They look like — or radiatore look like like radiators.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Francis Lam: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: That is a great shape, though, because, I mean, that is really I think the pinnacle of saucability of all shapes is radiatore. No shape is more sauceable than radiator.
Evan Kleiman: Well, some people would say that about fusilli, which I also think is its downfall. But that's a whole other conversation.
Dan Pashman: Well, it doesn't have enough body to stand up to the sauce. I want to return to a question about sauceability, in particular ridges. Evan, you said and I agree, that that any time you can have ridges around the outside of your past, you want that because it increases surface area and increases sauce adhesion. Is there ever a time when you would want plain penne over penne rigate, which is ridged penne? Francis, what do you think?
Francis Lam: Let me back up of a little bit and talk about your three criteria. I think they sound valid, but I think they don't actually encapsulate the universe of pleasure that pasta and noodles can exist in. Right? I think the suggestion is that there is an — there's like an ultimate form and that ultimate form produces the most pleasure. But I think if we open our minds a little bit — still hate bucatini. We can accept that there are lots of different ways for a pasta to be pleasurable. And if you're asking me about smooth penne versus ridged penne? Yeah, the smooth is never going to have the same kind of like, you know, sauceability. Right? But what if what you want in that moment was really to eat the pasta and the sauce was just helping the pasta along rather than the other way around. And I think of like a really beautiful pappardelle, right? A really beautiful fresh pappardelle. So often when it's made well, I really just want to eat the pasta and I want to feel the texture of the pasta...
Dan Pashman: That's the wide flat one for folks who don't know what shape.
Francis Lam: Oh, yeah, yeah. Sorry.
Dan Pashman: Yes. Yeah.
Francis Lam: And sometimes they're like, you know, about an inch wide.
Dan Pashman: Sometimes they’re even wider.
Francis Lam: Yeah. Then they're like kind of hard to eat then. It's like eating a rug. I don't know why you do that. It's like, oh, it’s a long rug. That's delicious.
Dan Pashman: I'm not suggesting that there is only one shape that's better than all the others. I agree that different shapes have different strengths and weaknesses. But I also think that in the entire universe of shapes, some are better than others, demonstrably better than others. They're not all equal. It's not like every shape has a place, like there's —
Evan Kleiman: No. Literally, every shape has a place.
Dan Pashman: When would you eat penne over penne rigate?
Evan Kleiman: Well, what pene lici, which is the penne that doesn't have the ridges and is sometimes — and is sometimes called mostaccioli or, also, ziti, is often used in like baked pasta dishes that aren't lasagna. You take your pene that don't have ridges, you cook them, you put them in cold water, then you add your sauce, your cheese, your whatever else you want. You pack it into your baking dish cover it with parmesan, you put it in the oven, and then for some reason, the lici stays more — it has more form precisely because it hasn't absorbed as much sauce as the rigate.
Francis Lam: Ohh.
Evan Kleiman: What do you say to that, Mr. Pasta Engineer man?
Francis Lam: Ohh.
Dan Pashman: I would say that's a good point. I will take that under advisement.
Francis Lam: For those of you at home, you can't see Dan's guts falling all over the floor from that complete evisceration. Oh, my god.
Dan Pashman: Coming up, if you thought we were done talking about slurping, you were wrong. We go deep on the best approach to eating Asian noodle soups, and take questions from the audience. Plus, I’ll have a cascatelli shipping update! Stick around.
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful. I’m Dan Pashman, and I have a cascatelli shipping update! As of now, all orders placed through May and about 75 percent of orders placed in June have shipped. But variety packs that include other Sfoglini products? Those are packed by hand so they’re a few weeks behind. The folks at Sfoglini are working their butts off to catch up. And I got to tell you, I saw a new box just recently and Steve at Sfoglini has the castcatelli so dialed in. It's even more beautiful than it was at the beginning. I mean, the ruffles are more uniform. The whole thing just looks gorgeous. Now, look, I know it's still a long way to get the pasta but don’t let that stop you! Just order some now. You’ll forget you ordered it, then it’ll show up in a couple of months and you’ll be so, so happy! In other words,, keep the orders coming. As always you can place your order at Sfoglini.com. That's S-F-O-G-L-I-N-I .com. All right, let’s get back to our live event about pasta shapes.
Dan Pashman: In both Italian pasta and in an Asian noodles, there's a lot of tradition, a lot of beautiful tradition, but I do wonder if sometimes certain traditions can be a barrier to progress, to change and new ideas.
Evan Kleiman: Gentrifying the pasta conversation.
Dan Pashman: Well, for instance, here's one rule that I've heard that I don't understand. When the pasta comes to me and it's been served to me and if it's pappardelle or some other shape that's especially large or long and it's lacking in forkability, why is it so wrong for me to cut it?
Evan Kleiman: [GASPS]
Dan Pashman: Well how do you eat pappardelle when it’s — one is three inches wide and two feet long?
Evan Kleiman: I’d cut it and feel shame.
Francis Lam: Here’s a question, biting it before...
Evan Kleiman: No, but you can bite it. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: So why is that different if you bite it and have it falls back into the plate. It's the same thing as cutting it.
Evan Kleiman: No, that’s bad. It cannot fall back in the plate. You know, you have to eat it correctly and it has to be beautiful as you're doing it. You know?
Dan Pashman: Well I want to hear from each of you, what's one pasta or noodle tradition that you feel should be discarded?
Evan Kleiman: Angel hair pasta in a bowl with no broth, with tomato sauce.
Evan Kleiman: Thank you. Thank you.
Dan Pashman: Why?
Evan Kleiman: Because angel hair pasta was never meant to be a pasta sciuta, dry — pasta served dry just with sauce. It's meant to be in a broth.
Francis Lam: Really?
Evan Kleiman: Yeah, the eighties notwithstanding… yeah really.
Francis Lam: That's amazing. You're telling me vermicelli was meant to be like pho?
Evan Kleiman: Well, angel hair. Yeah, vermicelli sometimes some places call spaghetti vermicelli, but yes, very, very thin, fine noodles is meant to be in a broth. Yes.
Francis Lam: This is blowing my mind because if you walk into an Asian grocery and you go into the noodle aisle...
Evan Kleiman: Which is unbelievable.
Francis Lam: And there are so many shapes...
Evan Kleiman: So many.
Francis Lam: And you know, and obviously not — some flour, some rice, some mung beans.... whatever.
Evan Kleiman: And that’s the interesting thing about Asian noodles is that the actual dough has so much variability.
Francis Lam: Right. And it changes. Like, it's really different textures in subtle ways that are maybe inarticulable. But when they have an English label, 75 percent of them are called vermicelli for no discernible reason. But now I’m realizing that most of those noodles were meant to be served in broth. So maybe someone somewhere along the line was like, that’s an Italian pasta that is served in broth. My head is blowing up right now! Because I never knew why rice sticks are called vermicelli. They were all called vermicelli!
Dan Pashman: Right. So we talked a lot about strategies for eating pastas that are difficult to get on the fork, difficult to keep in the fork, difficult to not get messy. Let's talk briefly about strategies for Asian noodle soups.
Evan Kleiman: I, I'm, I'm such a bad slurper.
Dan Pashman: You mean like you do it but you don't do it well?
Evan Kleiman: No. I don't. I don't do it efficiently. And, um, and I'm constantly biting it. And parts are falling back in the bowl, which makes me feel ashamed.
Francis Lam: Don't feel shame. We don't have rules that oppress people like that. You can cut the noodles if you want. Whatever. Do you your thing, girl. No, in all seriousness...
Dan Pashman: Tell us about your approach.
Francis Lam: I don't have like a...
Evan Kleiman: He learned too early to know what the approach is.
Francis Lam: Yeah.
Evan Kleiman: It’s like a fluency.
Francis Lam: Yes. It's like it's so intuitive.
Dan Pashman: Didn't you tell me, you some kind of system where you take the noodles and rest them up on top of like, a lily pad or pork?
Francis Lam: Only for ramen.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Francis Lam: For whatever reason, I do this for ramen.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Evan Kleiman: You have a lily pad?
Francis Lam: I bring a lily pad with me. So the lily pad thing is when I'm eating ramen, and I don't know exactly why I do this only for ramen, but I have it like sort of pounded in my head that the noodles in ramen should be protected. And so I protect them by, you know, you get the big steaming bowl and the first thing I do — usually, there's like a slice or two of, like, you know, pork belly or something. You know, some kind of meaty garnish that's usually a nice flat thing, so it takes up like a fair amount surface area in the bowl. And so what I do is I go in and I — with my chopsticks — and I take the entire tangle of noodles and I lift them up at the bowl for just a second. Just enough for it to like lose a few degrees of heat. And then I sort of gently rest them back on top of the bowl and hopefully most of them will catch on to like the pork. And it’ll sort of rest and they'll sit outside of the soup so I can then eat the noodles and eat the soup without having to worry about the noodles sitting in the hot soup and absorbing more of that broth and getting softer.
Evan Kleiman: Wow.
Francis Lam: It’s a sweet move.
Dan Pashman: That's impressive.
Francis Lam: You can do this.
Dan Pashman: It's just about time for us to go to the town hall portion of this debate. But before we do, I want to hear quickly from each of you. Bucatini aside, give me one shape that you feel like should just be eliminated from the canon and one shape that you think is very underrated that requires more attention.
Evan Kleiman: Fusilli.
Dan: That — fusilli, that's the corkscrew, should be thrown in the garbage.
Evan Kleiman: Bye.
Dan Pashman: No fusilli.
Evan Kleiman: See ya.
Dan Pashman: All right.
Evan Kleiman: Gone.
Dan Pashman: And Evan, what shape do you wish to elevate? Do you want more people to know about?
Evan Kleiman: Candele.
Dan Pashman: Which one’s that?
Evan Kleiman: Candele are from Liguria. And they're usually made of egg pasta. They're like candles. They're very, very long and they have a hole in the middle. But it's a really big hole in the walls are really thin. So when you cook them, they collapse on themselves and you're not supposed to cut them. But they're just so weird and wonderful and they look gorgeous in a bowl, the tangle of them. And you can just serve somebody one candle. They're just fun.
Dan Pashman: How long is a typical — oh, like over a foot long. It's like a scroll almost.
Evan Kleiman: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Right. Francis one shape you would get rid of, one shape you would elevate.
Francis Lam: All pasta shapes are wonderful except for one
Dan Pashman: What about Pac Man shapes?
Francis Lam: Oh, dude. Are you — any of you, do you — does anyone remember the Chef Boyardee pasta in a can? Right? Did you ever remember when they had a Pacman version of them? People remember this?
Dan Pashman: Yeah, yeah.
Francis Lam: OK, so I was, you know, yay big. I loved any form of, you know, Western food. And so like pasta can was totally like kind of my vibe. And when Pacman came out? Forget it, because I love Pacman. I'm like, oh my God, Pacman food! Ahhh! And the little meatballs were like little wah, wah, wah.... like Pacman was eating the little meatballs? His weird like industrial food meatballs that were like not God's plan. And so I loved that stuff. And one day I was home sick from school and as a way to cheer me up, my mom made the Pacman Chef Boyardee for me with the meatballs and I ate it. But remember, I was sick.... that pleasure was robbed from me.
Evan Kleiman: That is not good.
Francis Lam: Forever.
Evan Kleiman: That is not a good look.
Dan Pashman: All right, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the audience participation portion of our program. Step right up. Please tell us your name and ask your question.
Audience Member: Hi. My nonna was named after mafalde, which is a specific type of pasta.
Evan Kleiman: That's so interesting.
Francis Lam: Come on. Come on.
Evan Kleiman: Oh, my God. Why would they do that?
Dan Pashman: Wait, was her name Mafalde?
Audience Member: Yes, her name was Mafalde. And I was wondering if you're going to venture into the pastina world of the Italian pasta?
Evan Kleiman: Ohhh.
Dan Pashman: Well, Evan, what are your thoughts on those?
Evan Kleiman: I love pastina so much. And when you find yourself in a store that has a large selection of pastina...
Dan Pashman: Wait. I'm sorry, just define that term...
Evan Kleiman: Pastina is little tiny pasta shapes often used to introduce solid food to babies and always served in broth and, um...
Francis Lam: It's like the little stars and the little...
Evan Kleiman: Yeah, little stars. It's where alphabet soup came from.
Dan Pashman: A while back I picked up some hanukkah themed pasta shapes. They had dreidels and jewish stars, menorahs...
Evan Kleiman: That's hilarious.
Dan Pashman: I got them at this — I don't know, have you guys heard of this really super high end italian market? It's called Bed, Bath, and beyond? Yeah, so I found the beyond.
Evan Kleiman: I love that.
Dan Pashman: And, yeah, my kids love the dreidels but they lacked in toothsinkability. I’ll be honest. OK, please introduce yourself.
Bernadette: Hi, I'm Bernadette. And my question is earlier, very early, you asked — Dan asked, I think, what what sauce is best with spaghetti? And I was surprised that neither of you mentioned cacio e pepe.
Evan Kleiman: Oh, because I don't think of cacio e pepe with spaghetti.
Evan Kleiman: Nu-uh.
Dan Pashman: You think of it with?
Evan Kleiman: Bucatini.
Bernadette: And that is fair.
Francis Lam: It’s just cheese and pepper. Whatever.
Evan Kleiman: No, seriously. I mean, it's — in Rome, it's like more commonly served with bucatini.
Dan Pashman: But why is bucatini better than spaghetti for cacio e pepe, which is cheese and pepper.
Evan Kleiman: So actually, I wanted to say something about this. When we talk about sauce here, we tend to think about like sauce, like something that was bubbling in a cauldron. When really, sauce just means condiments. And so there are a lot of sauces, traditional Italian sources that are just a group of ingredients that have very little adhesive quality until you actually put it in a pan with a little bit of pasta water and maybe some additional butter or some additional oil, and then you create the adhesion. So for me, something like cacio e pepe, which is relatively simple, it's like one ingredient, or, you know, with water, it just cries out for bucatini because bucatini has the like — [GROWLS] — the meatiness to to deal with that cheese, which you would normally think of as being on a fresh pasta. I don't know. It's a rabbit hole. What can I tell ya?
Francis Lam: Would you say that the traditional Italian method of saucing pasta, which is like you said, not to actually douse in sauce, but to just kind of lightly coat the noodles means that the whole argument for bucatini being filled with sauce is a little bit BS?
Evan Kleiman: No, because —
Francis Lam: Just a little bit?
Evan Kleiman: No...
Francis Lam: Is that really that much sauce to go in the thing?
Evan Kleiman: No, because actually the whole point, it's the right amount of sauce for the noodle you're using....
Francis Lam: Touchee.
Evan Kleiman: And so the idea is that you say the process of saucing it, it should become one thing, like everybody should have the experience of having a bowl of spaghetti twirling and bring it to your mouth and then the sauce just goes — [BLOOP] — into the bowl. That's not pasta. That's not that's not pasta.
Dan Pashman: What? We got time for one more. One more audience question.
Allison: Hello, my name is Allison and I am from Roosevelt Island. And I was wondering, I heard Evan speaking that every pasta shape has a pasta sauce... When you're cooking yourself a pasta dinner, do you decide the sauce first or the pasta shape?
Evan Kleiman: I decide the dish. So it's a whole. They're not separate. It’s something that is — it comes fully formed.
Allison: You see it as a whole?
Evan Kleiman: I see it as whole. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Like the linguini vongole on the beach.
Evan Kleiman: Exactly.
Evan Kleiman: Oh, yum.
Francis Lam: Most frankly, it starts with what vegetables I have —
Evan Kleiman: Yeah, me too.
Francis Lam: in the fridge. And like I got any cook that tonight. I got to cook that tonight. And then it goes from there to how am I going to make it? Am I going to cook it soft? Am I gonna cook it in oil? Am I gonna coo it in butter? I'm going to roast it and just kind of eat it, like along with, with a very simple condiment, like Evan said. Or do I want to cook it into a sauce? Do I want to take eggplant and cube it and cook it down until it's a puree and use that as a sauce.
Evan Kleiman: Wow.
Francis Lam: So it's not traditional cooking. It's just kind of a whatever I can do to whatever vegetables I have lying around.
Evan Kleiman: Me too, because, I mean, I will do anything not to go to the grocery store. I mean, anything. Like I will make my own pasta rather than go to the grocery store. So it's not like I have four thousand shapes in my pantry, right? I have a few bags of two or three long shapes and a few bags of short shapes.
Dan Pashman: Well, we got to wrap it up. I want to thank you guys so much for joining me. Thank you all for coming out. Francis Lam hosts the radio show and podcast The Splendid Table from American Public Media. Big hand for Francis Lam!
Dan Pashman: And all the way from California, Evan Kleiman hosts the radio show and podcast Good Food, at LA’s KCRW. Big hand for Evan Kleiman.
Francis Lam: Those were definitely louder cheers.
Dan Pashman: Thank you so much for coming out! Good night!
Dan Pashman: Coming up next week on the show, I’ll bake chocolate chip cookies with Jake Cohen, author of the cookbook Jew-ish. Get it? Like, kind of Jewish? Jake went from not caring at all about Judaism to encouraging people across the world to host Shabbat dinners. We’ll talk about that journey, and we’ll talk about the very specific food-related gifts Jake got from his future mother-in-law when he first started dating his husband.
Dan Pashman: While you’re waiting for that one, go listen to last week’s episode. It’s the story of my friend, Amy Pearl, and her sudden-onset meat allergy. Yes, it's true. That one's up now. Check it out. Thanks.