Mathematical Precision of Pasta

A rendering of pasta ioli, also a mobius strip, which George L. Legendre named after his daughter.

When mixing flour, egg, salt and water to make pasta, I’d guess the only math you consider is how many minutes you have left before the kids will be begging for dinner. I’d guess that you never really contemplated the mathematical beauty of that rigatoni or cavatappi that you are eating. Thats not the way George L. Legendre eats pasta.

Image Courtesy Amazon

In an effort to bring order to the possible chaos of cooking, George L. Legendre takes cooking geek to the next level with his unique book, “Pasta by Design“. Legendre takes 92 of the most familiar types of pasta, categorizes them, determines the complex mathematical equation describing the shape and shows us incredibly intricate computer models for each type of pasta.

“Pasta by Design” is not a cookbook, there aren’t recipes or great wine pairings, this is a tome of mathematical beauty more akin to a math reference book. Each page spread is totally dedicated to one specific type of pasta; amazing photography joins with mathematical models and formulae to create an in depth description of that type.

Image courtesy IJP Corporation

One of the most interesting parts of this book is the pasta family tree, where Legendre uses ‘phylogeny’ (the study of relatedness among natural forms) to classify the 92 types of pasta by identifying unexpected relationships between pasta shapes, their usage and common DNA.

Image courtesy of Thames & Hudson


George L. Legendre is principal of IJP Architects in London and a leading specialist in complex surfaces. The foreword is by Paola Antonelli of the Museum of Modern Art. IJP’s work has been featured on the cover of AA Files, Mondo Arc Perspective + and Icon Magazine. George is currently guest-editing a special issue of AD Magazine on the Mathematics of Sensible Things. The book is based on an idea by Marco Guarnieri.


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