Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cookbooks: The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kennedy

I was absolutely astonished to discover that The Geometry of Pasta (Quirk Books) is not some obliquely named self-help book, but that it is actually about... pasta. Not only that, it takes a sober, educational -- and even a little art school -- approach to the subject. The end result is the kind of cookbook that seems likely to find resting spots on chef’s bookshelves for a long time to come. It’s just very, very good.

The Geometry of Pasta is a collaboration between designer Caz Hildebrand (who has, among other things, designed the tastiest of Nigella Lawson’s rich and lovely cookbooks) and Chef Jacob Kennedy, co-owner of London’s very successful Bocca di Lupo.

The resulting book is, I think, probably one of the definitive works on pasta of all time. It is, as I said, low-key and considered. It is as much discussion about food as it is creation of it as Kennedy walks us through the history and evolution of hundreds of pasta shapes and recipes. And so we learn that corzetti are “large coins of pasta from Liguria,” and that fusilli “are an industrial semolina pasta, a triple helix, like an elongated propeller or fan blade.” There are tips for making pasta, for choosing it and for plumbing it for maximum enjoyment.

Many of the pasta entries are accompanied by Hildebrand’s gorgeous black and white illustrations. In her introduction to the book, she writes that the duo here offer “a guide to the geometry of pasta; pasta at its simplest and best, to be enjoyed as the Italians do.” ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.



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