NEW YORK — Pasta is poised for a comeback, as consumers continue to seek comfort and familiarity amid the pandemic, according to the Specialty Food Association in its latest trends forecast. Offering new twists on the traditional dish is Sfoglini, the New York-based brand bringing novelty to the noodle aisle.
The company’s cascatelli pasta was named by Time magazine as one of the top inventions of 2021, alongside COVID-19 home testing kits, self-driving delivery vehicles and smart flip phones. The new shape was the result of several years of research and development, dreamt up by “The Sporkful” podcast host Dan Pashman on three criteria: “sauceability,” “forkability” and “toothsinkability.”
“He felt like every pasta shape out there that existed he would try and maybe would fit into one or two of those but couldn’t capture all three,” said Scott Ketchum, co-founder and chief executive officer of Sfoglini.
Cascatelli, the Italian word for “waterfalls,” draws inspiration from existing pastas bucatini and mafaldine, featuring a half-tube shape with ruffled edges, Mr. Ketchum said. The product debuted last March and quickly became the brand’s bestseller.
“We launched hoping to sell 10,000 to 20,000 lbs over a couple months, which is a pretty good amount for a new shape and introducing it to market,” Mr. Ketchum said. “We sold that in an hour.”
Founded in 2012, Sfoglini (pronounced sfo-lee-nee) produces a range of specialty pastas formulated with organic ingredients, including semolina, rye, emmer, einkorn and spelt flours, grown and milled in the United States. The company uses traditional bronze dies and plates, creating a rough texture that helps sauce stick, and slow-dries each batch at a low temperature to preserve flavor and nutrients.
Prior to launching the business, Mr. Ketchum was a creative director and graphic designer for nearly two decades, and his co-founder, Steve Gonzalez, was a chef and pasta maker in kitchens across the United States and Europe.
“At that time, you didn’t see many unique shapes on shelf; you didn’t see a quality pasta coming from the US or New York area at all,” Mr. Ketchum said. “It was all Italian imports, and you mainly saw your traditional pennes and rigatonis on the shelf. With Steve’s knowledge of pasta and shapes that were out there and his cooking background, we put together a unique set of pastas that we really thought would bring excitement and innovation back to the pasta aisle and would also complement things chefs were doing on their own.”
Six years later, the company outgrew its operations in Brooklyn and moved upstate to Coxsackie to expand production capacity.
Today, Sfoglini products are sold in more than 1,000 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods Market, Fresh Grocer and National Grocers. The company also supplies pasta to restaurants, schools and food banks in New York.
“Foodservice was about 30% to 40% of our business before the pandemic, but it has dropped drastically to about 10%,” Mr. Ketchum said. “We hope to see that spike back up this year.”
Varieties include beet fusilli, cuttlefish ink spaccatelli, einkorn macaroni, hemp rigatoni, porcini trumpets, whole grain blend radiators and more. Sfoglini also tests limited-edition options through its pasta-of-the-month club.
“The success of cascatelli is really exciting,” Mr. Ketchum said. “That really inspired us, to see how many people loved to see that innovation come to pasta. Especially after many years of gluten-free pasta taking over the spotlight of the pasta business… Gluten-free isn’t going to go away and is something a lot of people need, but it seems like most people had written off pastas and that nothing new was going to happen there, and I think we’ve changed that now. I want to continue to grow that.”