Pasta books

More on pasta (following up on fagottini, here): on two recent books surveying types of pasta, with attention to their physical form:

Hildebrand, Caz & Jacob Kenedy. 2010. The geometry of pasta. Philadelphia PA: Quirk Bks.

Legendre, George L. 2011. Pasta by design. NY: Thames & Hudson.

Hildebrand & Kenedy is a recipe book with bold black-and-white graphics; it has 78 entries, covering over 90 types of pasta. Legendre is a taxonomy of 92 types of pasta, with photographs, schematic illustrations, and trigonometric formulas, but no recipes, only brief serving suggestions.
The cover of H&K, with a sampling of the graphics:

From the book’s website:

Pasta is a simple thing but getting it absolutely right depends as much on choosing the best pasta shape for the sauce as on cooking it properly.

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

Our book, THE GEOMETRY OF PASTA shows you how to develop an instinct for matching pasta and sauce. We explain how to team up pasta with sauce to maximise taste and texture and to turn you from an average into a great pasta cook. This website is a taste of what you will find in the book.

(There’s an index of sauces, but not of pastas. The entries are arranged alphabetically, but that doesn’t help in finding pastas grouped in a single entry, like linguine, bavette, and trenette, all alphabetized under linguine.)

Lengendre is much stranger, and geekier. A sample entry, for farfalle ‘butterflies’:

with a photo on the opposing page. (Earworm on the aria “Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso” ‘You won’t go any more, amorous butterfly’ from Le Nozze di Figaro.) From the Thames & Hudson blurb:

The pasta family tree reveals unexpected relationships between pasta shapes, their usage and common DNA. Architect George L. Legendre has profiled 92 different kinds of pasta, classifying them into types using ‘phylogeny’ (the study of relatedness among natural forms).

Each spread is devoted to a single pasta, and explains its geographical origin, its process of manufacture and its etymology – alongside suggestions for minute-perfect preparation.

Next the shape is rendered as an equation and as a diagram that shows every distinctive scrunch, ridge and crimp with loving precision. Superb photographs by Stefano Graziani show all the elegant contours.

Finally, a multi-page foldout features a ‘Pasta Family Reunion’ diagram, reassembling all the pasta types and grouping them by their mathematical and geometric properties!

Other pages and photos on the book’s website, here. (This rather delicate material doesn’t reproduce well on-screen.) And from a New York Times review:

“Quirky but serious” is how the architect George L. Legendre describes “Pasta by Design” …, his taxonomy of 92 noodles, from the itty-bitty acini de pepe to ziti. Legendre shares his South London office with a fellow architect and inveterate pasta preparer, Marco Guarnieri, who gave him the idea to catalog with mathematical exactitude the difference between, say, fusilli and fusilli Capri. (The latter is longer, but both go great with a ragù.) Home cooks might blanch at the CAD-style schematics and trigonometric equations, but they can nonetheless appreciate that each pasta profile comes with cooking times and serving suggestions.

The cooking information is minimal, as you can see from the farfalle entry above. Many more than 92 pastas are described in the alphabetical, but the others can be found only by searching through the pasta family tree at the end of the book

The family tree provides a taxonomy, at three levels: the major taxa, the pastas with entries (a kind of basic level of categorization), and subtypes of these. The major taxa are distinguished by form (though the categories are obviously chosen with an eye to function):

gnocchi (dumplings)
pasta corta (short pasta, like farfalle, fusilli, penne)
pasta lunga (long pasta, like fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti)
pasta ripiena (stuffed pasta, like fagottini and ravioli)
pastine minute (tiny pasta, like acini di pepe, diavolini, orzo)

The two books overlap considerably in their coverage of pasta types, but a fair number occur only in one of them (tagliolini only in H&K, fagottini only in Legendre).

H&K is for cooking, Legendre for wonderment.

3 Responses to “Pasta books”

  1. Victor Steinbok Says:

    Pasta by Design@Amazon:

    Geometry of Pasta@Amazon:

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Antariksh Bothale on Google+:

    Wow! Pasta by Design goes right next to “Cooking for Geeks” in the list of books that every geek who loves cooking should have.

    [Subtitle: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food. By Jeff Potter.]
    For the science, you should still go back to Harold McGee’s kitchen science books.

  3. Dr. Zippy « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] (On the Middle Eastern food falafel, see the Wikipedia entry and the posting “Make Falafel Not War”, here; on the pasta farfalle ‘butterflies’, see here.) […]

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