In the culinary arts, bucatini is a type of pasta that is shaped like a long, narrow tube. Bucatini resembles thick, hollow spaghetti, with a hole running through the strand of pasta. 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 then cut into ribbons to make flat, ribbon-style pasta like fettuccine, tagliatelle or pappardelle. Bucatini, on the other hand, has to be extruded rather than rolled.
This means that the pasta dough is fed 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 forces the pasta dough to emerge in long tubes. The tubes are then trimmed off to the desired size and then either dried or cooked fresh.
Bucatini can be made at home with a stand mixer and a pasta extruder. Prior to starting the recipe, make sure you have the specific bucatini disc 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 eating.
Serving Bucatini Pasta
One of the most common sauces to serve with bucatini is the classic Amatriciana sauce, which is traditionally made with guanciale, a type of cured meat taken from the pork jowl.
The guanciale is sautéed until crispy, and then pepper flakes, onion, and garlic are added. After cooking for a few minutes, add crushed tomatoes and then simmer until slightly thickened. Finally, the cooked bucatini are added and cooked briefly in the sauce and then served topped with freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese.
Fresh vs. Dry Bucatini
Bucatini can be bought in both fresh and dry variations. Dry bucatini is available at most supermarkets in the pasta aisle. Fresh bucatini is usually available at Italian specialty shops. Deciding when to use fresh or dry bucatini usually comes down to the type of sauce you are preparing it with.
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 often suggested for any thick meaty sauce. Because dry pasta is usually cooked al dente and has a bit of a bite to it, the pasta can hold up to 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 do not have any on hand and cannot buy it, do not fear. Bucatini can easily be substituted with spaghetti or fettuccine. While you won't be able to slurp up the pasta in the same way, the sauce and pasta will hopefully still taste delicious and be a satisfying meal.