Dan Pashman bringing his ‘pastable’ recipes to Atlanta on cookbook tour

The host of the ‘Sporkful’ will also host a pasta making class, record a live podcast episode
Dan Pashman is the host of the Sporkful podcast and the author of "Anything's Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes for Saucy People."

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Dan Pashman is the host of the Sporkful podcast and the author of "Anything's Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes for Saucy People."

Dan Pashman has rarely let a lack of experience deter him from taking on a project that, he admits, sometimes gets him in over his head. In a good way.

Six years ago, Pashman declared on an episode of his award-winning “Sporkful” podcast that “spaghetti sucks,” and spent three years developing cascatelli, a pasta shape that went viral.

A few years ago, despite a lack of culinary training, Pashman decided he wanted to extend his pasta project in the form of a cookbook. He assembled a team of chefs and food experts to help him put together “Anything’s Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes for Saucy People,” set to be released on March 19.

“Sometimes when you get into a project and you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, which happens to me regularly, I have a tendency to think, ‘I’ve got to make sure I don’t do this again,’” Pashman said. “The truth is that I think that part of me thrives on that feeling of drowning just a little bit. There is such a thing as too much pressure and too much stress. I think that you have to push yourself to do things that you’re not sure you can do. You’re going to continue to develop and evolve creatively.”

In addition to recipes that go beyond the standard pasta marinara and fettuccini Alfredo, “Anything’s Pastable” also features a Jarred Tomato Sauce Decision Tree and cheeky notes on ingredients including salt and pepper and Pashman’s love-hate relationship with parsley.

Pashman, who discusses the process of writing the cookbook in a four-part series on the “Sporkful,” will host a pasta class March 25 at Le Bon Nosh in Buckhead, followed by a live podcast taping with Kim Severson of The New York Times at the Loft on March 26.

Q: One of the reviews of your book said that “if Willy Wonka and Alton Brown collaborated on a pasta cookbook, this might be the result.” Do you consider yourself more of a Willy Wonka or more of an Alton Brown?

A: I think I’m a combination, but I’d say I’m maybe 51% Willy Wonka. Eating and cooking should be fun. I always want to be having fun in my work and I want this cookbook to be fun and I want my events to be fun. Yes, we cover serious and substantive topics on my podcast, but at the end of the day, I still want most of the episodes to have some sense of fun. I’m happy to embrace a little bit of both of them.

Q: On the first of the four episodes of the podcast where you talk about writing your cookbook, you ask the recipe developers you work with to come up with superhero names for themselves, but you didn’t pick your own. What would your superhero persona be?

A: I think I would be the Mad Pasta Scientist. That’s sort of how I think of myself. I have all these really talented folks I’m working with and I have ideas and they have ideas, but at the end of the day, it’s up to me to kind of stick my finger in the socket. And my hair stands up on end, and hopefully it tastes delicious.

Q: Would you wear a cape with pasta on it?

A: I’d rather wear some sort of silly lab coat. I would want like a lab coat with too many pockets that I would have crumbs of pasta falling out of. I’d have a Ziploc bag full of a recipe that I cooked up earlier in the day somewhere in my pocket.

Q: You’ve spent a ton of time researching and putting together a dream team to help you develop the book. I’m sure all the recipes feel like your babies, but is there one in particular that you’re the most proud of or most excited to introduce to readers?

A: I’ll give you two, because these are two of the very few recipes in the book that I developed myself. One is spaghetti all’assassina, which was a product of my trip to Italy. I went to Bari in the far corner of Italy and went to the restaurant where it was invented. It’s a dish of spaghetti cooked in a spicy tomato sauce, so the sauce is cooked down and the pasta is pan-fried and it turns charred and crunchy. It’s very different from anything that most Americans think of when they think of an Italian pasta dish.

The other one I would say is pasta pizza. That one that just came to me in a vision to me while I was driving. It’s basically a pizza where the crust is cooked fettuccine that has been coated in oil and egg and baked on a sheet pan so that the entire thing gets crispy and golden brown on the bottom and then you top it like a pizza, and the pasta functions as a crust. You can slice it up and pick it up with your hands. It’s like a piece of pizza, and it’s just incredibly fun. Very different. You pull it out of the oven and you’re going to get some oohs and ahhs.

Dan Pashman is the author of "Anything's Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes for Saucy People."

Credit: Handout

icon to expand image

Credit: Handout

Q: There are so many interesting facts about pasta introduced throughout the book. What’s the most interesting thing you learned while doing your research?

A: That Italian pasta history is not nearly as old as I thought. It’s also not nearly as static. I would have thought that all of the iconic Italian pasta dishes like carbonara and cacio e pepe, that the Roman emperors were eating them. What I learned is that pasta was not the national food of Italy until about the last 100 years. Carbonara was only invented in the ‘40s or ‘50s. Spaghetti alla Siena, which I featured in the book, was invented around 1960. A lot of the iconic dishes, not only do they first come about only in the past 100 years, but Italians did not coalesce around a single set of ingredients until even more recently. Thirty or 40 years ago, people were putting all kinds of things in carbonara.

I loved learning that, because the truth is that it just sounds more realistic to the way food culture evolves. No part of culture is set in stone. It’s always changing, and it’s true in Italy also. I also felt like it freed me up creatively, to take more chances and to break away from tradition more because I came to see my book more as an extension of an ongoing evolution in pasta.

Q: You talked a little bit in the podcast about having some impostor syndrome because you don’t have a cooking background. Do you still feel like that now that you’re about to publish a cookbook? Or have you gotten over that?

A: It took a long time, but in the end, I came to see my lack of professional culinary training as a strength and not a weakness. I am a good home cook, but I’m not a chef, and I think that helps me to make sure that the recipes were written in a way that they will be clear for home cooks. It took me a while to land on that, but that’s how I feel about it now, and I think I do feel a little more confident now. I don’t necessarily think about my way of doing things as being objectively correct or the best, it’s just the way I like to do it and the way that is best for me. It was helpful for me to think about it like, I’m not pretending to be the be-all and end-all who knows everything about everything. I have strong opinions about how I like it. I’m going to tell you how I like it, and hopefully there are enough other people out there that will learn that they like it the same way.


Three-course dinner and pasta class

6:30 p.m. March 25. $190, includes a box of cascatelli and a signed copy of “Anything’s Pastable.” Le Bon Nosh, 65 Irby Ave. NW., Atlanta. bit.ly/3wV1IvO

Live Sporkful taping

8 p.m. March 26. $25-$59. The Loft, 1374 West Peachtree St., Atlanta. bit.ly/3ThphX5

Cavatellin with Roasted Artichokes and Preserved Lemon is a recipe in the cookbook "Anything’s Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes for Saucy People" by Dan Pashman.

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout


SERVES 4 TO 6 • total time: 40 minutes • developed with Katie Leaird

The cheese in this dish dissolves into the sauce, and my daughter Emily, who only believes there’s cheese in pasta if she can see it, said, “This pasta doesn’t have any cheese on it, so I was like, ‘Oh my God, I need cheese on it.’ Because you know, cheese is the best. But I still had to taste it and it actually tastes really, really good.”

“The pasta shape cavatelli, it goes really well with the flavor,” said my other daughter, Becky. “The lemon preserves or whatever you call it sticks to the pasta shape. So I like it because then you get some of it in every bite. I like the flavor, I think it’s more interesting than plain pasta.”

Try it yourself and find out why this is one dish I’ll be making for years to come!

While this dish will lose its sauciness if it sits, the flavor remains outstanding, so it does function well as a pasta salad made in advance, especially if you’re using fresh cavatelli, which is very durable. If it’s been sitting for an hour or two, just add a drizzle of olive oil and toss before serving.


2 tablespoons kosher salt

Three 14-ounce cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry (see note)

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound cavatelli (see note; or use casarecce, strozzapreti, gemelli, or gnocchi)

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

¼ cup finely chopped preserved lemon (about ¾ medium lemon; see tip)

2 tablespoons drained capers, roughly chopped

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ cup (2 ounces) finely grated Pecorino Romano


1. Place an oven rack in the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 450°F. Bring 4 quarts of water and the salt to a boil in a large pot. On a rimmed sheet pan, use your hands to gently toss the artichokes with 3 tablespoons of the oil until evenly coated, then spread into a single layer, cut side down. Transfer to the oven and roast until deeply browned on the bottom, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

2. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes less than the low end of the package instructions.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) of oil in a large, high- sided skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 1 minute; remove the pan from the heat.

4. Use a mesh spider to transfer the pasta directly to the skillet and return to medium heat. Add 1½ cups of the pasta cooking water, the preserved lemon, capers, pepper, and three- quarters of the roasted artichokes (choose the lighter- colored artichokes to stir in, reserving the more browned ones for topping). Cook, tossing and stirring to combine, until the sauce thickens and clings to the pasta but still pools slightly in the pan, 3 to 5 minutes.

5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley and Pecorino. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish or individual bowls, top with the remaining artichokes, and serve.

ARTICHOKES NOTE: Thoroughly drying the artichokes is key to getting some good color on them— use a double layer of paper towels to gently but firmly pat them dry, then discard the towels and repeat. Or roll them up in a clean kitchen towel and press them dry.

PASTA NOTE: We developed this recipe with big, rustic, fresh cavatelli, found in the refrigerator or freezer section of some supermarkets and many Italian specialty stores. (Rustichella d’Abruzzo also makes a great dried one, although if you get the 8.8-ounce package, you’ll need two.) If you can’t find cavatelli that are at least 1 inch long, don’t bother with the little dried ones— just substitute one of the options suggested.

PRESERVED LEMON TIP: Preserved lemons are a punchy powerhouse— their salted citrus brings not only layered lemon flavor and tang but also a special salinity that kosher salt alone cannot compete with. Plus once you have a jar, you can use them in a range of recipes in this book, including Mezze Maniche with Harissa Lamb and Mint- Parsley Gremolata (page 173) and Crispy Gnocchi Salad with Preserved Lemon– Tomato Dressing (page 217). Look for whole packaged preserved lemons in the cheese section, or jarred ones in the international or “Global Flavors” aisle of larger grocery stores or specialty shops. I used Les Moulins Mahjoub brand from Whole Foods. You can also make your own; it’s very easy and there are instructions online. When adding to a recipe, use every part but the seeds!

— Excerpted from “Anything’s Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes for Saucy People” by Dan Pashman

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