What Is Bucatini?

Cooking and Recipes

Bucatini with sauce on a plate

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Bucatini (boo-kah-TEE-nee) is a type of pasta that is shaped like a long, narrow tube, resembling thick, hollow spaghetti. The pasta is traditionally produced and served in and around Rome, with the name originating from the Italian word buco, meaning “hole.” Also known as perciatelli, this pasta is boiled and served hot with tomato, meat, butter, cream, and seafood-based sauces.

Fast Facts

  • Category: Tubular pasta
  • Meaning: “Hole” or “pierced”
  • Cook Time: 8 to 12 minutes
  • Main Ingredient: Durum wheat flour
  • Variants: Perciatelli
  • Substitutes: Spaghetti, spaghettoni, fettuccini

What Is Bucatini?

Bucatini is an Italian pasta consisting of long, narrow tubes made of durum wheat flour. It is typically used in dishes that are similar to recipes calling for spaghetti. Because the pasta is hollow, it is extruded through a machine rather than rolled. The pasta dough is fed into a machine that forces it through a perforated disk, producing long, circular, hollow strands. At home, a pasta maker and extruder must be used to make bucatini.

The pasta is available fresh or dried but is more commonly available dried in American stores. It's typically imported from Italian makers, but can sometimes be found made by local pasta makers. The dried version tends to be affordable, if slightly more expensive than the ever-popular spaghetti, and the fresh pasta is pricier with a short shelf life. Bucatini takes well to almost all kinds of sauces, with the empty center allowing the inside to be coated, as well as the outside of the pasta. Bucatini all'Amatriciana is a popular dish featuring a spicy pork and tomato sauce.

Bucatini vs. Spaghetti

Due to its long, round shape, bucatini is sometimes mistaken for spaghetti. The key differences between the two are the size and the hole in the center. Bucatini is thicker than spaghetti, making room for that hollow center running throughout. While the two pastas are used in similar dishes, bucatini's center hole gives it a more interesting texture and makes it better at sopping up sauces.

How to Cook Bucatini

To cook dried or fresh bucatini pasta, bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt to taste. For dried bucatini, add the pasta to the boiling water and stir. Cook for 8 to 12 minutes depending on the brand of pasta and the desired doneness, stirring occasionally to keep the strands from sticking together. Drain well and use immediately. Boil fresh bucatini for just 3 to 5 minutes before draining. Taste the pasta often to ensure it does not overcook.

Bucatini is frequently cooked to al dente (by following the shorter cooking time) and finished briefly in a pan with the sauce. This ensures that the pasta is well-coated and flavorful.

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, while 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.

Bucatini pasta
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Bucatini pasta with sauce
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Bucatini carbonara
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Bucatini with pesto
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Varieties

Bucatini is largely found in the classical style, made from durum wheat flour. Very occasionally it can be found in whole wheat form, which has a longer cook time, a stronger flavor, and a heartier texture. A gluten-free corn or rice version can sometimes be found at specialty markets, as well as online.

Substitutes

If a recipe calls for bucatini and you can't find it at the store, you can substitute with spaghetti, spaghettoni (thicker 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. For heavier, meatier sauces, swap in penne or another tubular pasta. The wide holes will help capture the thick sauce.

Bucatini Recipes

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. Bucatini also pairs wonderfully with a creamy carbonara sauce or cacio de pepe (cheese and pepper).