22 December 2010

The Geometry of Pasta

We have been saving some of our best for last.

So what happens when you combine a graphic novel, 2008's London restaurant of the year, and pasta sauce? You get The Geometry of Pasta. Unlike most cookbooks The Geometry of Pasta began as a visual idea. Noted graphic designer, Caz Hildebrand, is a Creative Partner at Here Design. He envisioned a cookbook that would focus on a common yet varied ingredient -- pasta. Once he conceived of the graphics, he needed an equally creative chef to develop sauces for each of the pastas. He really only had one choice.

Jacob Kenedy is the chef/proprietor of Bocca di Lupo. The often finicky Giles Coren wrote in the The London Times:
"Bocca di Lupo I went to only yesterday, and my tongue is still singing, my lip quivering, my brain dancing. Bocca di Lupo is just bloody marvellous."
I must say I have been quite spoiled with cookbooks featuring full color images, but this stripped down, graphic cookbook is a treasure. It features recipes for my favorite campanelle which means bell-flowers. It is getting harder to find and I am always upset when it is not on the shelf.

Here is the recipe for the famous puttanesca

Whore’s sauce

200g spaghetti
50ml extra virgin olive oil
180g cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried chilli flakes
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
40g salted capers, soaked until tolerably salty and drained
120g black olives (Gaeta, if possible), pitted and roughly chopped
4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
100ml light tomato sauce (page 15), or tomato passata
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

What more colourful name could there be than ‘whore’s pasta’? This Neapolitan recipe may have originally been cooked by the proprietor of a brothel for his customers, a quick and cheap substantial dish to give them energy, or been inspired by the lurid colours of the ladies’ biancheria (undergarments). In any case, it is delicious, widespread, and enjoyed by people at every grade of respectability.

A few minutes before the pasta is cooked, heat a wide frying pan until smoking hot. Add the oil, followed immediately by the tomatoes, chilli and garlic. Fry for a minute until the garlic is just starting to colour and the tomatoes soften. Add the capers, olives and anchovy, reduce the heat to medium and fry for a minute more before adding the tomato sauce.

Simmer for a minute or so until the pasta is cooked a touch more al dente than you want it on the plate; drain it and add to the sauce along with the herbs. Stir together for 30 seconds over the heat, adding plenty of black pepper but probably no extra salt. Serve straight away.

Oh my, how good is this book? A favorite of 2010...

The Geometry of Pasta

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