Bucatini is a type of pasta that is shaped like a long, narrow tube and resembles thick, hollow spaghetti. The name originates from the Italian word buco, meaning hole.
How Bucatini Pasta Is Made
Standard pasta machines will roll out sheets of flat pasta which are cut into strips to make flat, ribbon-style pasta like fettuccine, tagliatelle, or pappardelle. Bucatini, with its round shape and hollow center, has to be extruded rather than rolled.
Extruded pasta is made by feeding the pasta dough into a machine that forces it through a perforated disk, very similar to a meat grinder. The shape of the pasta depends on the shape of the perforations. Bucatini is made with a disk with tiny circular perforations, which produces pasta with a long, circular, hollow shape. The tubes of bucatini are trimmed to the desired length and either dried or cooked fresh.
Bucatini can be made at home with a stand mixer or pasta maker and a pasta extruder. Prior to beginning the recipe, make sure you have the correct disc that's used to make bucatini for your machine. Since bucatini has a hole in the middle, it must be handled gently so as not to squeeze the hole shut prior to cooking.
Fresh vs. Dried Bucatini
Bucatini can be bought in both fresh and dried variations. Dried bucatini is available at most supermarkets in the pasta aisle. Fresh bucatini is available at Italian grocers and specialty food shops. Deciding when to use fresh or dried bucatini usually comes down to the type of sauce you are using.
A good rule of thumb is to use fresh pasta for any sauce that is creamy or milk-based, such as alfredo or carbonara. Dry pasta is suggested for any thick meaty sauce. Because dry pasta is typically cooked al dente and has a bit of a bite to it, the pasta can hold up to heavy, meaty sauces like a ragu. A common exception to this rule is a ragu bolognese, which is often served with fresh noodles. While ragu bolognese is a thick meaty sauce, it is usually simmered with whole milk and pairs well with fresh pasta.
If a recipe calls for bucatini and you can't find it at the store, you can substitute for spaghetti or fettuccini in a pinch. While you won't be able to slurp up the pasta in the same way, the sauce and pasta will still be a satisfying meal.
Serving Bucatini Pasta
One of the most common sauces to serve with bucatini is the classic Amatriciana sauce (making a dish called bucatini all'Amatriciana). It is traditionally made with guanciale, a type of Italian cured meat taken from the pork jowl. After sautéing the pork until crispy, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes are added along with crushed tomatoes. Cooked bucatini pasta is added at the end and simmers briefly in the sauce before being served with freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese.