Made from flour and water, it’s one of the most basic foods. And it’s versatile, available in hundreds of shapes and used in endless dishes.

“Pasta by Design” (Thames & Hudson), by the London-based architect George L. Legendre, takes an unusual look at the Italian favorite. There is information about more than 90 kinds, including where each is from and its traditional preparations.

The shape of each is described in elaborate mathematical formulas and shown in a technical illustration. There’s also a pasta family tree that groups the shapes into categories, like solid or hollow, smooth or striated, twisted or bunched. Here is a look at five pastas and their renderings.

Thames & HudsonMafaldine


Named at the turn of the 20th century after Princess Mafalda of the House of Savoy, mafaldine (like lasagna, but narrower) is generally served with meaty sauces or in seafood dishes. (Above the rendering is an equation for one of its dimensions.)

Thames & HudsonMafaldine

[viz2] Thames & HudsonGalletti


This tubular pasta with an undulating crest is usually served in tomato sauces, but it goes equally well with a boscaiola, or woodsman’s, sauce of mushrooms.

Thames & HudsonGalletti

Thames & HudsonFusilli Lunghi Bucati

Fusilli Lunghi Bucati

Part of the extended fusilli clan, this shape has a hollow interior and a long twisted profile. Like all fusilli, it is traditionally eaten with a meat-based ragu but can also be combined with thick vegetable sauces and baked in the oven.

Thames & HudsonFusilli Lunghi Bucati

[viz4] Thames & HudsonFisarmoniche


Named after the accordion, fisarmoniche is good for capturing thick sauces, which cling to its folds. This sturdy pasta is said to have been invented in the 15th century.

Thames & HudsonFisarmoniche

Thames & HudsonFagottini


These “little purses” are made from circles of durum-wheat dough. A spoonful of ricotta or other filling is placed in the dough, then the corners are pinched together to make a bundle. Near left, a graph of its cross-section.

[viz5B] Thames & HudsonFagottini

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