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.
Green peppers from the farmers’ market
Roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded
Cooking with the tomatoes added
Adding the bucatini to the sauce
Ready to eat
- 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)
- 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.
- Add the tomatoes, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for another 20 minutes. Stir in the grated cheeses. Remove the chiles.
- Boil the bucatini in a large pot of boiling salted water until cooked through but slightly al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
- 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.
It is the custom in the US South to eat black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year’s Day, one for good luck and one for wealth. Some believe that not to eat these dishes will result in the opposite effect, bad luck and poverty.
Our family lived in Louisiana to get into the custom, even though we didn’t really believe the superstition. The habit has persisted even though we have lived outside the South for many years. There must be lots of other former Southern citizens in our Southwest community, because canned and frozen black-eyed peas are always sold out days before New Year’s Eve.
There are many versions of cooked black-eyed peas which qualify as good luck charms the New Year: Hoppin’ John, Texas caviar, black-eyed pea vinaigrette, and plain ol’ Southern black-eyes. The following recipe borrows from all of those classics. Likewise, the cabbage dish is an update of plain old boiled cabbage.
It may be too late for you to get your protection for 2013, but hold onto the recipes for next year. In the meantime, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Uncooked dried black-eyed peas
Fresh tomatoes and other vegetables added to the beans for the final simmer
Serving of New Year’s Day black-eyed peas
Napa cabbage, red onions and mushrooms ready for the braise
Dill fronds for the dilled yogurt sauce
Dilled yogurt sauce
Serving of napa cabbage, red onions, and mushrooms topped with dilled yogurt sauce
Good-Luck Black-Eyed Peas
- 3 strips bacon
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
- water for cooking peas
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
- 3 ounces Canadian bacon, large dice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 or more dashes Tabasco sauce
- Fry the bacon in a small pan over medium heat until crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and transfer the bacon drippings to a heavy-bottomed soup pot.
- Over medium heat, put the chopped onion in the soup pot, cover, and sweat for 5 minutes until translucent and softened
- Add the peas and enough water to completely cover the peas. Bring to the boil and then reduce to the simmer, covered, for 1½ to 2 hours or until the peas are tender.
- Add the bell pepper, celery, tomatoes, and green chiles. Stir in the Canadian bacon. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes more or until the tomatoes are cooked down.
- Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and Tabasco
- Serve in wide-brimmed soup bowls.
Braised Napa Cabbage, Red Onions and Mushrooms with Dilled Greek Yogurt
- 1 small napa cabbage cut in half lengthwise
- 1 medium red onion sliced in thin crosswise rounds
- 6 cremeni mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup dry white wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup minced dill fronds
- Combine the cabbage, onion, mushrooms, chicken stock, wine, salt, and pepper in an oven-proof covered pan
- Over medium-high flame, bring the pan to a boil, cover, and then transfer to the middle of an oven pre-heated to 250°F
- Braise the vegetables for 60 minutes or until they are tender. Check frequently, and add water if needed
- In the meantime, combine the yogurt and dill in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator while the vegetables are braising to bring out the dill flavor.
- Drain the cooked vegetables and serve with yogurt SAUCE.
If you wish, serve the black-eyed peas with cooked rice, along with cornbread on the side for dipping.