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.


If you like what you see here at Eats Well With Others, please head on over to Foodbuzz and vote for me to be the next Project Food Blog Star!  You can find my entry to challenge #2 here.  Remember, you have 200 votes for this round, so I would really appreciate it if you would make Eats Well With Others one of them!

Gemelli Fusilli Al Fagiolini
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
parmesan cheese

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!


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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94 Responses to Fusilli Al Fagiolini – A Book Review of The Geometry of Pasta

  1. Katerina says:

    I totally agree, finding the perfect match between a type of pasta and the sauce that it will accompany it, is something that needs thought and fantasy. Your dish is simple, doric yet delicious.

  2. Raina says:

    Great easy and delicious dish, healthy too…me likey:)

    That cookbook sounds very interesting. I definitely agree certain pastas go better with certain sauces. In my home, we usually disagree over which pastas are best, though. My husband and son love rigatoni with everything.

  3. Priya says:

    Such a fabulous looking dish..truly tempting..

  4. Very interesting, there are so many types of pasta around and finding the right sauces for each is indeed like matchmaking.

  5. Couldn’t agree more! It’s a topic that deserves great contemplation. One should not just dive right in willy nilly.

    Great review and post! Lovely pasta dish too! 🙂

  6. Jessie says:

    Leave it to you, Joanne, to turn a subject I have not thought much about before into a gosh darned important topic that requires serious consideration! I confess I have not thought about the shape of my pasta before, but I must! It’s true that those thin little pasta sauces have not business applying to be dinner along with those robust pasta twirls. As for THIS pasta … she likes her “sauce” tall, brown-haired, and nerdy 😉

    Going to vote … right … NOW! 😀

  7. I was pathetic at geometrics, but would definitely be thrilled to learn about the very interesting geometry of pasta!
    These fagiolini pasta sound like a very healthy and tasty dish… Any advice whether Penne would be geometrically correct for the fagiolini 😉

  8. I love reading your posts, Joanne. They are always so entertaining! 🙂

  9. I love that there is a whole book dedicated to the Geometry of Pasta. Of course each shape is better suited to different sauces and preparations-thanks for blasting this out there so we can remember this! Gorgeous recipe too.

  10. Big Dude says:

    We generally go with the pasta that is our favorite or the one we happen to have on hand, but way in the back of my mind there has been this little nagging thought that says certain shapes go with certain sauces. I’m glad to know there is a source of info and I’ll plan to get the book and get myself educated. Thanks for posting about it.

  11. Amy says:

    Is this book dedicated to you? Or are you referenced in the credits? This is so perfect for you. And perhaps me. I want a copy…putting on wish list. Check.

    I’ve sort of dismissed that little asterisk on recipes noting “to use pasta with ridges so the sauce sticks to it.” I guess there’s more to it than that. Veeerrry interesting.

    The reason all those dating/relationship books don’t work is because people are way more complex than pasta.

  12. Amy says:

    I know you know that, of course. That was sarcasm… in case it wasn’t obvious. Shit, I can’t talk, type, or pay attention this early.

  13. Victoria K. says:

    So interesting! I know there’s certain shapes that are better with thin sauces versus thick sauces, but it would be really cool to see the specific suggestions 🙂 I DO love pasta, of course, hehe.

  14. elra says:

    So simple, yet delicious Joanne!

  15. Tasha says:

    This must be one of the most interesting pasta sauces I’ve seen. Pureed green beans with cinnamon & garlic? Certainly not something I would come up with on my own, ever, but I’ll bet it was awesome.

  16. Swathi says:

    Beans and pasta looks delicious. I haven;t tried this combo i need to try.

  17. Fascinating!! I’ll definitely start putting more thought into what sauce I pair with what shape . . .

  18. Mo says:

    Joanne, this is genius. I love that the beans make the sauce! And the touch of cinnamon… ah! I need to try this, definitely. 🙂

    PS – Pesto goes great with fusilli. Hmpfh. 😛

  19. Joanne,
    It’s amazing how much pasta shape plays a part! This dish looks great! I love stopping by your blog. Wonderful photos and recipes, and your writing style is so much fun to read!

  20. Kristen says:

    That dish has all the right stuff. It sounds like a great meal. Hopefully the pasta and sauce will live happily ever after. I’d hate for the pasta to have to repost that ad.

  21. Witty and clever post, but that’s par for your course. Anyone who does not understand the relation between sauce and pasta, really has never made a pasta dish. It’s like you said, there are certain pastas that pair better with certain sauces.

    You are quite the pasta millionaire matchmaker.

  22. I am 100% Italian, grew up on pasta (except we called it macaroni) and yet have no real idea what pairs well with what. All I know is my mom’s meatballs and marinara sauce are good enough to eat alone. 🙂

  23. Jennifer says:

    Sounds like a great book and a superb recipe!

  24. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    Looks great! I have to admit…I’m one of those people who just pick a pasta and run with it. I should probably give a little more thought into my sauce and pasta combination.

  25. There had to be a method behind all the madness of pasta shapes and sizes.The book sounds like a good read Joanne.

  26. Julia says:

    That looks so appertizing and healthy 🙂

  27. Mo Diva says:

    MMMM I think i can relate to them curvy full bodies sauces… 🙂
    Im a big fan of pasta and this dish looks like straight up comfort and yumminess all in one. im in love.

  28. Mmm, pasta is one of my very best friends!
    I love some of the Italian names – especially the priest stranglers. ?

  29. Mari says:

    I love that you always make me giggle before you show me the delish meal you cooked up!

    that pasta dish looks heavenly (as always)

  30. Ameena says:

    I know very little about pasta so I think I need to read this book. My kid loves spaghetti, my lazy husband prefers penne because he hates to be inconvenienced by having to cut spaghetti, and I can’t eat pasta unless it’s gluten-free.

    We are quite a high-maintenance bunch.

    Your fusilli looks divine!

  31. Hmm I may have to pick up this book because while I’ve always been aware of the specificities in picking a pasta shape for a certain sauce, I don’t understand it! Sounds like this book is pretty useful for anyone who loves pasta (which is everyone, isn’t it?).

    Also, if you come to New Jersey there’s not a ton to do here but we have some nice restaurants to try out 🙂

  32. Ann says:

    Thats so bizarre, I wa slistening to NPR yesterday and the authors were on air talking about the book! The way they were describing pasta was like theyn almost ahd human attributes. But hey, no fair on the knock on poor vodka sauce. She’s so easy she can go with anything *snicker* *snicker*

  33. megcjones says:

    just stumbled across your blog, and i love it! this dish looks delicious, and your photography is gorgeous. thanks for sharing!


  34. Andreas says:

    Jay for all semi-confusing arts and totally confusing sciences. 😉

  35. Nirmala says:

    I did not know that the shapes dictate the sauce. But it makes sense like how orecchiete favors broccoli etc. I love how the vegetable gets caught in ever bite. I may have to check this book out at the library.

  36. Monet says:

    I would love to get my hands on that book. I am always confused about what sauces to pair with what pastas. I obviously need a tutorial! This dish looks like perfection though. I’m sure the beans added a wonderful snap to each bite. Thanks for sharing with us. You are awesome, and of course I voted for you!

  37. Shannon says:

    definitely something to think about! need to check out that book 🙂

  38. Pam says:

    Simple. Delicious. Beautiful. Enough said.

  39. Dawn says:

    Love the simple ingredients. I could make this for my daughter too! (Using rice pasta and rice cheese!)

  40. Leave it to you to enlighten us about the size and shape of pasta, Joanne! This looks darned good! Off to vote!

  41. Bridgett says:

    When I first looked at the top pick it looked instantly like a pasta my grandma would make for us grandchildren, pretty much all summer. I definitely want to check out this book now!

  42. Elizabeth says:

    THANK YOU for cooking green beans to a “no-crunch” doneness. (I can’t take the raw green bean trend in restaurants!) Your pasta architecture is fascinating . . . this explains why Radiatore works well with thick sauces. Your recipe is a winner!

  43. tigerfish says:

    Yes, I try to match them too. The “shape” and geometry of ingredients to the shape of pasta. I will diced my green beans if I am using shorter pasta and maybe slice thy beans to longer, slender slivers if using longer pasta. Makes sense? ;p

  44. That Girl says:

    I do love pasta of all size and shapes, but you’re right – some do go better with sauces than others.

  45. Reeni says:

    I must get my hands on the book…love it! It has to be the first of its kind. And the pasta – can such a simple thing look any more delicious!? It’s gorgeous.

  46. Megan says:

    All I thought was – this had better not be a math lesson, because I’ll flunk!

    Great pasta!

  47. Love the cinnamon and green beans – smart, different adds! And I’m obsessed with the idea of pasta having different personalities – the likes/dislikes are too much! I must learn more about the geometry of pasta!

  48. It looks very delicious…colourful..

  49. I do think that choosing the right pasta to go with the sauce is important. It’s the same for Asian style noodles. There are all kinds of noodles out there and pairing it with the sauce or method of preparation actually makes the dish.

    Your pasta sauce sounds quite unique with that touch of cinnamon. Will have to try it the next time I make some pasta.

  50. Kim says:

    The geometry of pasta is the only geometry I’m interested in. This is a creamy and decadent sauce that is spiked with quite a bit of cinnamon. I love that warm spicy touch! I’ll have to look for this book online. It sounds like a good read.

  51. Beth says:

    YUM! This looks cozy for this nice wet, sticky weather we’re having. I could stay home in my air conditioning and eat this for lunch all day tomorrow 🙂 Looks delicious!!

  52. aipi says:

    very beautiful looking pasta..loved the green beans n cinnamon in it!

    US Masala

  53. Definitely sounds like a book I would read!

    As a kid, pasta was my favorite food. Absolute favorite. Not mac n cheese — no, I was sophisticated. I liked marinara with vegetables and turkey sausage and meatballs. But no visible tomato chunks. Uck.

    Unfortunately, my PCOS and uncontrolled insulin resistance has largely meant saying adios to bread and pasta and rice and such. I wasn’t a big carb person before so it hasn’t been too terrible. I refuse (REFUSE) to go down the road of giving up oats. I shudder at the thought of breakfasts of just plain yogurt or protein shakes. No. The oats are staying.

    Okay, so somehow this comment turned into a rant about carbs and my body. I’ll stop now.

    Happy weekend!

  54. vialentino says:

    hi hi…
    wow, love ur food site very much and i am a pasta fan.

    nice review and pics by u.

  55. Debinhawaii says:

    Ahhh, I have that book sitting and waiting for me to review it–I am hoping to do it this weekend. Your pasta looks delicious–love the green beans.

  56. I’m impressed with how simple this dish is. I totally believe that the shape makes the pasta. I should get that book! Thanks!

  57. Barbara says:

    I’m not the biggest green bean fan in history, but this sure looks like an interesting pasta dish. And cinnamon? Unusual.
    But I do love the idea of matching pasta shapes to the rest of the dish. Makes sense. (something that usually escapes me.)

  58. Simona says:

    Joanne, I sent you an email and want to make sure you have received it. Let me know if otherwise: thanks!

  59. I am not the biggest pasta fan, so I am totally one of those who picks pasta based on the shape I prefer instead of what would would pair best with sauce. You called me out, well done 🙂

  60. Ruth Daniels says:

    Great post as usual, and a new book to check out. I do love the sounds of this dish. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights…and good luck at Project Food Blog Star.

  61. Catherine says:

    Marvelous presentation! This sounds fantastic Joanne! Great post as always!

  62. Deborah says:

    Now that is a personal ad I want to answer! I totally agree, though – the shape of the pasta does matter. And this looks incredible.

  63. he he I always pair my pasta with its sauce love finding new and fun pastas have a great weekend Joanne coming to NYC first week in dec must meet up with you and Victoria, Christo Christine LOL Rebecca

  64. Faith says:

    What a great book, it sounds like a really interesting read! Picking the perfect pasta to match the sauce is half the fun, lol! (Of course eating it is even better. 😉 )

  65. Lori says:

    This kind of book sums up why I am so infatuated with food! There is just so much to learn and it is all so interesting. I’m always a fan of pasta.

  66. LIked the review…and the dish too….will surely vote for you…

    BTW, thanks for visiting my blog….pls do visit again….Have a grt weekend….

  67. That’s such an interesting book and even though I’m not so big on pasta I find the book very fascinating!

  68. Dan says:

    Excellent photos and an entertaining post, as always. Do you submit the photos to foodgawker?

    This looks great. I like the idea of the pureed beans as the sauce.

    I always have questions about which sauce goes with a particular pasta shape. I also wonder how whole grain pastas (and other non-standard pastas) play into that – e.g., the stickyness factor).

  69. Martha (MM) says:

    Oh yes Joanne, shape and size definitely does matter, don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise! (I could say so many things here but they all sound just a bit too inappropriate) – guess we better stick to the recipe, and a great one it is! 🙂

    We have have arguments about pasta type in my house all the time. I’m so glad someone finally acknowledged that there is a big difference! All Italians know that but many others have never given it a second thought!

    Have a great weekend 🙂

  70. Now I’m wondering if I picked the right pasta for my lemon sauce I’m serving guests on Sunday. lol

  71. sweetlife says:

    i love pasta in any form, shape or size…yummy and of course I voted for ya!!


  72. Bergamot says:

    simple and delicious…

  73. Vivienne says:

    haha and i thought there is always only ONE person out there for everyone. looks like it’s a complex world out there for pastas…

  74. I’d like to work my way through every pasta and sauce combination! I do enjoy my pasta. This looks like a delicious match.

  75. I am not sure which I love more, the photos or the pasta….look stunning! You have done a great job to turn an otherwise dull pasta dish into such an interesting and tempting one!

  76. newlywed says:

    Great review! I can’t get enough of cookbooks and books on food…also, I can’t eat enough food 🙂

  77. Elizabeth says:

    This pasta looks great. I love green beans and I bet they’re delicious in this recipe. I also totally agree that the right shape of pasta can make or break a dish. I recently made my favorite goulash recipe (passed down from my grandmother) with rotini because I was out of elbow macaroni like the recipe calls for and it took almost tasted like a completely different recipe. I was shocked.

  78. Claudia says:

    Mario gets into hard and soft pasta, and which sauces they call for – but this goes beyond that. I’ll have to get a copy. Good review and recipe as well.

  79. Cynthia says:

    Thanks for the skinny on this book Joanne. Adding it to my wish list.

  80. Great review (I want that book) and gorgeous looking dish.

    Congratulations, BTW, on making it through to the next round of PFB.

    Sue 🙂

  81. RamblingTart says:

    Beautifully gorgeous pasta, Joanne. 🙂 Love the addition of green beans to this scrumptious dish. 🙂

  82. I heard the authors on npr (all things considered) the other day- loved the interview…it made me want the book. The pasta looks great!

  83. Ms. Meanie says:

    Joanne, this looks seriously awesome: delicious and healthy. I am so regretting not buying beans at the Farmer’s Market!

  84. Julie says:

    haha you know what? i never ever thought about how the perfect pasta shape should apply to how well it takes the sauce! interesting. you see you do learn something new everyday 🙂 have a great weekend girl!!!!

  85. Chris says:

    Alexis is of the “pasta is pasta” school of thought and it drives me crazy. Likewise, I think I drive her crazy when I argue it’s not okay to just substitute penne when I wanted to use angel hair.

    I love how entertaining your posts are. Your personal ad for pasta had me smiling big time.

  86. pajamachef says:

    this looks like a great book. i’ll have to check it out. 🙂

  87. Kerstin says:

    I love how easy this recipe is – it sounds so flavorful too! I’ll have to check out the book.

  88. How interesting. Definitely makes me think about something I haven’t before. And the pasta looks divine.

  89. Eliana says:

    Thin sauce and pasta really does suck! But this recipe rocks socks!

  90. Marisa says:

    I confess I don’t give much thought to which pasta will suit which sauce – clearly I’ve been missing out!

    Green beans is such an unusual pasta partner, but you manage to make it look so great.

  91. Kate says:

    that last photo is amazing! I wish I could catch my food like that. Looks lovely!

  92. Mmm love the simplicity of this pasta dish!

  93. […] (and in the book) I can substitute. If, that is, the authors don’t know I’ve done so. They have written in the introduction, […]

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