800+ year old pasta seeks a thick chunky sauce to entwine itself with; to trap amongst its ridges; to hold onto and never let go. Enjoys long walks on the beach, meandering through the small intestine, and pleasuring the taste buds of pasta eaters world wide.
Likes: nice full bodied sauces with curves, texture, and multiple dimensions.
Dislikes: thin, one-dimensional sauces that will slip right through its spindles. Pesto, alfredo, and vodka sauces need not apply.
Now. Some may argue that choosing the perfect pasta shape to pair with the perfect pasta sauce. Is trivial. Unimportant. Something to be decided in five seconds as you rush into the grocery store on your way home from work, close your eyes, and blindly pull a box and a jar from the supermarket shelves. And, well, hope for the best.
To those people. Man, am I about to blow your mind.
In their new book, The Geometry of Pasta, which I absolutely jumped at the chance to review, Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kennedy argue that the Italian "preoccupation with choosing the right pasta shape to go with the right sauce" is not just some silly European thang, but can actually "[make] the difference between pasta dishes that are merely ordinary and truly sublime".
In short, shape and size do matter. No matter what your mom (or your girlfriend) tried to tell you.
Using the geometry of a given pasta - each with its own nuances, personality traits, online dating profile - one can actually turn the art of pasta preparation into a science; an architectural study, if you will.
However, I think we all know it is not as straightforward as all that. Like choosing a husband (ahem), there are dealbreakers of course - certain rules and regulations that one must abide by (for example - some pastas refuse to date smokers. Or picky eaters. And by "some pastas" I actually mean me.), but there are also exceptions. Evolution. Subtleties.
One could pair a penne with a blonde haired blue-eyed ragu one day. And then realize that maybe it would do better with a brunette of a penne a la vodka the next.
Much like matchmaking, it's an art form and a semi-confusing one at that. Thankfully, though, it is demystified a little by Hildebrand's and Kennedy's book, which devotes a chapter to each pasta shape that denotes the origin of that shape, and provides a list of sauces that would mesh well with it, along with a specific recipe or two. A book well worth having, in my opinion.
Now if only someone could make something like that for dating in the real world. A rubric or checklist of sorts. That would be awesome.
But until then, I'll stick to pasta.
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Serves 4, adapted from The Geometry of Pasta
1 lb pasta
1 1/3 lb green beans
2/3 cup half and half
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 clove garlic
1. Trim the tops from the green beans but leave the tails. Boil about 2/3 of the green beans in salted water until COMPLETELY cooked - no crunch! Put in a food processor or blender and puree with the half and half, cinnamon, and garlic. Season with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
2. Set another pot to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. About 4 minutes before it is done, add the remaining green beans into the pasta. About a minute before being done, strain the pasta, reserving about a cup of hot pasta water. Put in a pan along with the green bean cream sauce and a splash of pasta water (NOT the whole cup, just enough that it's allowing the sauce to be. Well. A sauce.) Cook together until al dente and well coated. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle it with parmesan cheese and walnuts, if so desired.
Disclaimer - Although I received these products for free, I did not receive any monetary compensation for doing this review. My thoughts and feelings on them are entirely my own.
I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted this week by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. I am also submitting it to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Simona of Briciole.
Also, today is the last day for Regional Recipes: JAPAN submissions, so please send them my way!