Tonight I decided to try a dish I’ve tasted a couple times in restaurants, but have never made myself: bucatini all’amatriciana, a classic tomato-based Italian dish. While it has few ingredients, the dish bursts with satisfying flavor if prepared right. The secret: the noodles.
Bucatini is a less common form of pasta in grocery stores, most likely to be found in Italian restaurants and anywhere that makes fresh pasta. It’s like spaghetti, but thicker and hollow, enough that if not overcooked, it has a satisfying “bite” to it. In order for the dish to be successful, you have to first find quality, fresh pasta worthy of being in the spotlight, and second, cook the pasta to an absolute minimum. One of the biggest pasta mistakes (of which I have been guilty many times) is overcooking the noodles. It’s quite easy to do, especially since they continue to cook from the heat of whatever sauce you put on them. The recommendation that the pasta seller gave me was only 2-3 minutes, though there is no “right” cook time that will hold for every batch of noodles. Trial and error is sometimes your only guide in such matters.
Regarding ingredients: the traditional recipe has guanciale or pancetta (Italian versions of bacon), but I dislike bacon, so I decided to make a meatless version. Also, the cheese garnish is usually Pecorino or Romano, but I only had Parmesan, so that’s what I used. For me, what is most important to get right in this dish is highlighting the delicious flavor of the bucatini by choosing quality noodles, cooking them for a low amount of time, and making sure not to detract from the noodles’ spotlight with too many flavors.
- Garlic, minced
- Red onion, chopped
- Olive oil (for frying)
- Tomato sauce
- Salt and pepper
- Pepper flakes
- Fresh bucatini
- Parsley, finely chopped, as garnish (go light on it to make sure its flavor doesn’t dominate over the bucatini)
- Fresh Parmesan cheese, as garnish (or, if you want to be more authentic: Pecorino or Romano cheese)