The Great Bucatini AdventurePosted by Nancy Wu on Sunday, March 22nd, 2009
Tags for this Article: Babbo, bacon, Bosa Foods, bucatini, David Rocco, Duso's Pasta & Cheese, fat, flavour, Granville Island Public Market, guanciale, italian, Mario Batali, noodles, olive oil, Oyama Sausage, Pasta, pecorino cheese, pig, recipe, tomato
Following my previous article on Terroni and the search for Vancouver restaurants that served bucatini all’amatriciana, my husband decided to make it himself. Joseph found two key ingredients at the Granville Island Public Market: dried bucatini pasta at Duso’s Pasta & Cheese (it can also be found at Bosa Foods near Hwy #1 in East Van) and guanciale at Oyama Sausage Company.
Bucatini is like a cross between spaghetti and macaroni. It is a long, thick noodle, with a hole in the middle (hollow inside like penne, which is 3x wider in diameter). Eating it, it is reminiscent of Japanese udon noodles or Shanghai thick noodles, thick and chewy.
Guanciale is unsmoked bacon made from the cheek of the pig. It is the traditional meat used in this dish, and is responsible for its unique flavour. It is very fatty, but the texture of the fat is somewhat crisp due to its high connective tissue content.
After some hunting around online and off, I found two bucatini all’amatriciana recipes to start from. Today’s adventure basically starts with David Rocco’s recipe (from David Rocco’s Dolce Vita) but adding some extra ingredients used in Mario Batali’s (from The Babbo Cookbook).
Once all the ingredients were chopped up, it was 15 minutes to completion. The noodles were dropped in the boiling salted water and he started frying the diced guanciale. It didn’t take long for the color to change (much more translucent) and the aromas to spread throughout the house. Minutes later all the fat had rendered out to the point that he poured it into a bowl so it wouldn’t be so unhealthy. Yes, we all know the flavour is in the fat, but this was a bit much! (Mario’s recipe calls for draining half of it out.)
Next step, the red onions, chili flakes & garlic were added and continued to cook until they softened and caramelized. Canned crushed tomatoes were added and left to simmer. (In a Batali world, the tomato sauce would have been made ahead of time from scratch with fresh organic ingredients, but we opted for Rocco’s due to time constraints.)
The bucatini is tricky to cook if you don’t use one of those monster pasta pots for the simple reason that the pasta is thick and doesn’t bend easily as your standard spaghetti or long noodle. Trying to cook it thoroughly, it’s easy to run the risk of going past al dente, which ours did, but not unbearably. The noodles were added to the sauce, followed by fresh Italian parsley and grated pecorino romano. (David’s recipe calls to mix the cheese in while the pot is still on the stove, while Mario adds it upon serving at the table.)
The verdict?? Very tasty (especially the crunchy bits of guanciale which reminded me of the bestest freshest tastiest bacon ever) but perhaps not so with all the fat removed and the unknown origin of Terroni’s extra virgin olive oil. Let’s just make a slight adjustment…..
The new verdict. The flavour IS in the fat. We added back some of the rendered fat from the guanciale and NOW it’s close to the bucatini my tongue remembers!! The recipe for tonight’s pasta adventure can be found here. Enjoy & share…often. (co-written with JW)
PS. Things happen quickly on the web, including updates: Guanciale MUST be in season (seriously, it isn’t around all the time so stock up when you can. Plus, it freezes well!). After lunch we went down to Granville Island to stock up on more and no kidding: While in line at Oyama, the guy in front of us was buying guanciale and one of the staff said, “You’re buying some too?” To the right, another person was ordering some and right smack in the middle were a bunch of pieces in a basket with their recipe for Amatriciana sauce!:
Ingredients: 1 guanciale, 2 onions, 4 cans of Marzano tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil
Cut the guanciale into small pieces. Cook the onion with it. When the onion is almost caramelized, add all the tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil. Cook slowly for 3-4 hours. The most delicious pasta sauce!