The Geometry of Pasta

January 17, 2013

By Raleigh-Elizabeth

Some part of us just knows it to be true: certain pastas work better with certain sauces. Macaroni elbows are just waiting for cheese. Farfalle can hardly be made more perfect than when mixed with sage, sausage, and white beans. And spaghetti spends its boxed days yearning to be slurped from the perfect tomato sauce.

Lacking any Italian heritage at all, I have to guess that this kind of knowledge comes from more than just a bloodline that would engender the trust of Strega Nona. So it’s no surprise that the authors of The Geometry of Pasta have discovered the secret: matching pasta with sauce is all about the math.

“Each shape of pasta has a slightly different role to play,” they say. “An Italian might say that understanding this is an innate skill that is difficult for the non-Italian to acquire. We politely disagree.”

And we’re so glad they do. Authors Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kennedy walk the reader through the shape, texture, and purpose of all kinds of pasta, showing us the ins and outs of what makes it delightful. In doing so, they carefully cultivate in the rest of us a second-nature knowledge of how to perfectly match each shape with its companion sauce. (I guess it’s time to stop dumping tomato sauce on everything?)

Part cookbook, part coffee table book, The Geometry of Pasta is beautifully illustrated with dramatic black and white depictions from everything like the lowly choo choo wheel to the delicate, pleated agnolotti dal plin. It’s also full of recipes you’ll be turning back to again and again, like the campidanese (sausage, tomato, and saffron sauce paired with the curly, gnocchi-like malloreddus pasta) and prosciutto crudo e panna (farfalle with prosciutto and cream). For a taste of what the book is all about, check out the video they made for the prosciutto crudo recipe.

Doesn’t that look delicious? I need to expand my pasta palette prentissimo. Do you have a sauce you pair with your favorite pasta?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Grace@ Sense and Simplicity January 17, 2013 at 10:15 am

I never realized that different pastas were meant for different sauces – I thought it was a visual thing and you just picked what would look the best. My husband has pasta issues and really only likes spaghetti pasta, but I’m working on him and try to have a good variety of shapes (it is all made from the same dough after all). I’ll have to try pairing different pastas with different sauces.

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2 raleigh-elizabeth January 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

play around on the geometry of pasta’s website – it’s actually very cool and interactive! i always found a fun way to start sneaking other shapes into people’s repertoire was either to cover it with cheese and fry it in bread crumbs and butter and serve it with tomato sauce as a starter or to toss it in soup. most pasta haters still love a good noodle in their soup. goodluck! let us know how it goes!

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3 Christa the BabbyMama January 17, 2013 at 10:19 am

Since I can’t have any dairy, looking at this is just going to make me sad :(

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4 raleigh-elizabeth January 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

no no! don’t be sad! i serve pasta for dinner once a week with a non-dairy tomato sauce… and it’s still delish!

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5 Sue January 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm

It’s funny that Italians should feel that way given that pasta was invented in china!

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6 Shannon { A Mom's Year } January 17, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I’m 1/4 Italian but I didn’t know about the geometry of pasta. I love this!

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7 Bestof2sisters January 18, 2013 at 12:05 am

Now this is the kind of maths I like! What a great book :)

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8 raleigh-elizabeth January 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

we clearly like the same kind of math. the edible kind!

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