Tag Archives: bucatini


Bucatini is one of my favorite pastas. It is sort of like eating spaghetti on steroids or macaroni for Lilliputians. One of the best ways to eat it is in the style of Amatrice, the Italian town that was devastated recently in the massive Italian earthquake. Recipes abound. Mario Batali and Anne Burrell, both famous for their Italian-based cooking, have recipes on the internet. So does Giada de Laurentiis. Two of my favorite versions are by Marcella Hazan in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow in La Tavola Italiana.  Not surprisingly, with so many recipes there must be controversy as to what is exactly the “correct” way to prepare this famous and classic dish.

Controversy begins with the pasta. Most folks accept the notion that bucatini is the real deal. But you may have a hard time finding it, so spaghetti or penne are quite acceptable substitutes. Then there’s the matter of tomatoes. Some advocate canned whole San Marzano tomatoes while some argue that only fresh can be used. You may have to settle for Roma unless you are lucky enough to find San Marzano. Most agree that tomatoes should not overwhelm the other ingredients, but that is a quantitative judgement. There is much disagreement about the choice of meat. Traditionalists call for guanciale, cured pork jowl, more strongly flavored  but similar to pancetta, which for most writers is a totally acceptable substitute.  The cheese proponents come down on either the side of Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino romano. You can find a middle ground and use both. The purists would not countenance American parmesan and romano.  Finally, there is a choice for heat from chiles. Pepperoncini are perhaps most commonly used, but then there is a debate about whether to leave them in the sauce or remove them. Red pepper flakes are often a substitute, and many other chiles have been recommended. Actually, all of these many choices mean that the cook has unlimited options and can really create a dish that is uniquely his or hers.

Here’s how I cooked it last night.


Bucatini all’Amatriciana


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/3 pound guanciale, sliced and cut into ¼inch x ½ inch rectangles (Be sure to have the butcher cut off the thick rind. It is tough and not very tasty. Use pancetta if you can’t find guanciale)
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 5 green chiles (or red pepper flakes to taste)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 5 fresh Roma tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese + more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pound dry bucatini (imported Italian Granoro brand is a good choice)


  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced guanciale, stirring frequently  until it begins to crisp but is not completely rendered. Stir in the onions and continue to sauté until the onions are translucent and have begun to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the chiles and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the wine and cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated.
  2. Add the tomatoes, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for another 20 minutes. Stir in the grated cheeses. Remove the chiles.
  3. Boil the bucatini in a large pot of boiling salted water until cooked through but slightly al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cooked bucatini to the warm sauce in the large sauté  pan, tossing to completely coat the pasta with the sauce. Serve immediately with more grated Romano cheese. Should serve 4-6.


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This past week I discovered a new vendor at the farmers market, a young man with a big basket of fava beans. I bought what I thought was a huge bag, forgetting that fava beans are one of those joys of fresh vegetables that is associated with a lot of effort and a very small return except in flavor. I shelled what looked like a quarter bushel of favas,  blanched the beans, took off the rubbery outer layer, and wound up with a cup of bright green beans. It’s no wonder that many cooks consider them either the equivalent of gold or not worth the effort.

Fava beans are one of the few (only?) Old World beans, and they have been grown for centuries in the Mediterranean basin. It seems a quirk of geography and genetics, then, that some individuals of Mediterranean extraction, most commonly, may harbor a deficiency of an enzyme, glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase (G6PD for short) that makes them susceptible to substances found in fava beans. If an individual is sensitive, he – more common than she – may experience a sudden illness with rapid breakdown of red blood cells, and even kidney failure and death unless it is recognized and rapidly treated. The illness is well-known and has been called favism to show the link with fava beans. Fortunately, the vast majority of individuals can eat fava beans without worry.

I had thought that favas and prosciutto would go well with lightly sautéed bucatini pasta, but alas there was none to be found in any of the local stores. At that point I turned to my copy of Encyclopedia of Pasta, written in Italian by Oretta Zanini de Vita and translated by Maureen B. Fant (University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009). If you haven’t seen that little volume, you should check it out. It describes nearly every pasta shape you can imagine, tells how each pasta is made, and suggests how to use each one.

With all of the sensory overload of that beautiful book, I remained undecided until I remembered some wonderful pasta that I had purchased at our village market. I found it in the pantry, four-foot lengths of pappardelle folded in half and dried for “easy storage”. The manufacturer, Maestri Pastai,  makes all kinds of unusual types and sizes of pasta. That’s great if you have a hard time finding exactly what you are looking for and don’t have the time or skill to make it yourself. Check out their website.

The rest of the ingredients for this dish were easy to find. I had a spare package of prosciutto in the refrigerator, and that seemed like the perfect foil for the favas. The scallions came from the market, the mint from the back yard, and there is always a chunk of Parmesan in the refrigerator.


Pappardelle with Fava Beans and Prosciutto


  • 2 pounds fresh fava beans
  • 5 ounces dried pappardelle
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 scallions cleaned and cut into ½ inch slices, white and green ends
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 25 fresh mint leaves cut finely into chiffonade
  • 2 ounces fresh Parmesan, grated
  • salt and pepper


  1. Shell the fava beans by breaking off one end and opening the pod along the seam. Collect the beans in a small bowl
  2. Plunge the shelled beans into two quarts of vigorously boiling salted water. Return to the boil for one minute – no more – and then drain the beans and transfer to a large bowl filled with ice water.
  3. When the beans have cooled, remove the outer skin with your fingers, being careful not to mash the beans. Collect the bright green inner beans in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. In a large pot, bring three quarts of salted water to the boil. Add the dried pappardelle and stir occasionally until the pasta is cooked, al dente, about 12 minutes, longer if you live at high altitude. Drain the pasta but do not rinse.Return to the pot along with the butter and olive oil. over medium heat. Add the scallions. Stir occasionally until the butter is completely melted and slightly colored. The pasta should have absorbed the oil and butter and sautéed lightly, but not browned.
  5. Stir in the fava beans and prosciutto until they are warmed through – 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the mint leaves.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Top with grated Parmesan,  and serve immediately.


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