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Who ate all the PIE-thagoras?
on 12 May 2010
It's nice to write this review to the backdrop of news coverage of Britain's new coalition because, just like the new Con-Dem government, 'The Geometry of Pasta' is a collaboration. And while many are still skeptical about how the parliamentary one will work out, I'm pleased to report that chef Jacob Kennedy and graphic designer Caz Hildebrand's book is a cast-iron dream!
It's what I guess you could call a 'concept cookbook', organized alphabetically by a vast range of pasta shapes, each one accompanied by a short introduction and history, a few recipes for cooking and saucing, where appropriate a recipe to make the pasta shape itself, and Hildebrand's exquisite geometric pasta-drawings. One of the best things about the book is how many shapes there are I've never come across before: radiatori, named because of their radiator-like shape and Kennedy's recipe is the witty 'warming red pepper and whisky sauce'; paccheri, "huge, smooth, thick tubes", with a squid and tomato sauce; gemelli, a twisted shape, with green beans and cinnamon. I feel really inspired to search out these shapes, and once I find them, I'll be confident I'm using them in a suitable recipe.
There are also ingenious recipes for pasta shapes I have come across but not always been sure what to do with them, things like 'trofie', 'orechiette' and 'fregola'. And then there are very creative and exciting recipes for pasta shapes I'm very familiar with indeed (the Cilla Blacks of the pasta world- they've been around for years but they never get old): spaghetti, lasagne, and farfalle. Of these type of recipes, my favourite has to be 'spaghetti with breadcrumbs and sugar' (in Kennedy's words "I can't make up my mind whether this is too weird to love or just weird enough") and Penne using the sauce from an oxtail stew (the meat to be served separately as another dish or course, or the next day for lunch.)
Another strength of the book is the guides for making and shaping and in some cases filling fresh pasta. I have never been much impressed by shop-bought orechiette, even though I love their dimpled shape. The name means 'little ears' but I can't help thinking they look like babies's cheeks. I am going to try making them at home (where else should babies's cheeks be?) and where, according to this book, they are much more delicate and soft.
A wonderful book, exquisitely conceived and deliciously executed.