Looking for yet another reason to fall in love with pasta?
Read through our guide to bucatini pasta and try out this recipe that’s sure to be a new favorite.
It would be tough to find a more respected authority on food than the magazine Bon Appétit. They’ve been publishing articles, reviews, and recipes on food for more than 50 years.
So, when Bon Appétit declares bucatini the best long pasta you can buy, you can take that to the bank. Bucatini is fun to eat and holds sauce like a champ, thanks to its most characteristic feature (more on that below).
There are countless different shapes, styles, and varieties of pasta, each one with its own set of perfect applications. You could never learn about them all. But, once you learn about bucatini, you might wonder why you stuck with spaghetti for so long.
Keep reading to learn more.
The Sine Qua Non of Bucatini: The Hole
A flute without holes is just a stick, and bucatini without holes is just spaghetti.
Essentially, that is the best way to describe bucatini: it’s like spaghetti, but with a hollow center. It is also thicker, to make space for that hole. Bucatini (pronounced boo-kah-tee-nee) comes from the Italian word buco, which means “hole”.
Depending on where you find bucatini, it is also listed as perciatelli (perciato means “pierced” in Italian).
Like some other pasta, bucatini is made of durum wheat and water. The durum wheat helps the bucatini maintain a strong and chewy mouthfeel throughout cooking. For that reason, bucatini pairs well with hearty sauces, especially meat sauces.
The trademark hole is the reason bucatini pairs so well with such sauces. Sauce coats the outside and the inside of bucatini, so it sops up even dense or heavy sauces.
Because of the unique shape of bucatini, it is hard for home cooks to make it properly. To make other pasta, you would roll the dough. But to create the hollow tube of bucatini, you need to extrude it. If you want to try it on yourself, you’ll have to buy a pasta machine and extruder.
Bucatini is available both fresh and dried, but because American sellers typically import it from Italian pasta makers, you will most often find it dried in U.S. stores. Fresh pasta is ideal for cream or milk-based sauces like Alfredo, while dried works well with meat sauces like ragu.
COVID-19 Comes for Bucatini Too
During the early parts of the epidemic, a pasta shortage hit American grocery stores. People were hoarding pasta and supply could not keep up. The largest factors were insufficient workers, due to high turnover in the factories, and companies struggling to pivot from bulk restaurant sales to retail.
“Amidst this general pasta shortage, bucatini pasta was in especially short supply. Even once you could find macaroni, linguini, or fettuccine, bucatini remained elusive.
Rachel Handler at Grub Street offered a few theories for the sparse bucatini. One theory was that people were using bucatini strands as straws as a way to help the environment.
Instead of using single-use plastic straws, you can drink through bucatini and then eat it. Everything ends up in your stomach instead of a landfill. Ultimately though, this explanation could hardly account for a nation-wide shortage.
The real reason had to do with the FDA. According to the U.S. Government, if a company wants to sell their pasta in America, they need to make it with enriched flour that contains certain levels of key vitamins and minerals.
In this case, the FDA mandates that bucatini contains 13 milligrams of iron per pound of pasta. The FDA looked at bucatini manufactured by a large Italian manufacturer and found that their bucatini contained only 10.9 milligrams of iron.
So, the FDA blocked their imports. The bucatini was safe, not dangerous at all, and legal to sell in all the countries in the European Union. But, because the bucatini was short on iron, no one could buy it here. As a result, the shelves emptied.
Luckily, the market has corrected this FDA overreach, and you can once again find bucatini in stores.
The Classic Bucatini Recipe: Bucatini all’Amatriciana (and Some Others)
Cooking bucatini is like cooking any other pasta. Dried bucatini takes between 8 and 12 minutes to cook, depending on the brand and your desired level of doneness. If you buy Dagostino’s fresh bucatini pasta, it will take 3 to 5 minutes to cook.
A common pairing for bucatini is an Amatriciana sauce, a simple sauce of pork and parmesan. Traditionally, you make the sauce with guanciale, which is a cured meat made from the jowls of pigs.
However, guanciale can be hard to find in the U.S. outside of specialty stores. For that reason, many American chefs substitute pancetta instead. This recipe for Bucatini all’Amatriciana suggests just that. The pancetta, along with black and red pepper, produces a rich, spicy sauce.
While bucatini all’Amatriciana is traditional, the sky is the limit with bucatini. You could also pair it with a carbonara sauce or a simple cacio de pepe. You can enhance almost any of your favorite recipes by substituting bucatini.
The Hole Makes All the Difference
It’s easy to fall into a pasta rut. You might be in one right now, buying the same penne or macaroni over and over. Now is the time to switch things up.
Give your meals a whole new shape by upgrading to bucatini this time. You’ll be rewarded with an amazing mouthfeel and sauce retention. Then, once you’re ready to switch it up again, you can choose one of our other excellent varieties of pasta.
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