The Great Bucatini Adventure

img_5988editFollowing 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.

img_5997editBucatini 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.

img_5991editGuanciale 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).

img_6001editimg_6005editimg_6013editOnce 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.)

img_6010editNext 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.)

img_6018editThe 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.)

img_6031edit1The 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…..

img_6040editThe 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)

dsc00245editPS. 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!


12 Responses to “The Great Bucatini Adventure”

  1. Posted on March 23rd, 2009

    With all of the reserved guanciale fat, I’m planning to do buffalo burgers tonight. Yummy. :)

  2. Posted on March 23rd, 2009

    Great timing–I bought guanciale at Oyama on Saturday with plans to make this after reading about it on Butter on the Endive. I was a bit put off by Batali’s 2-step recipe, since I’m short on time, so I’ll try your version instead. Do you think it’d be just as good with spaghettini (which I have on hand), or is it worth the 10-minute trek back to Granville Island for bucatini?

  3. Posted on March 23rd, 2009

    The sauce is so flavorful yet chunky/sticky that any pasta substantial enough to balance with it would work. Penne or linguini is great, but anything delicate like angelhair spaghettini or gemilli would get killed. Spaghetti *might* work but I’ve never tried it to have an opinion. I found this great link for the mother of all pasta lists for inspiration:

  4. Posted on March 23rd, 2009

    Do a thicker noodle, definitely. Since it means a trek anyway, get the bucatini. :9

  5. Posted on March 23rd, 2009

    The burgers were good. Basically all’amatriciana flavoured burgers. The ground buffalo meat was mixed with chopped Italian parsley, chopped onions, and grated pecorino romano. The patties were cooked in the rendered guanciale fat. Mmmm.

  6. Posted on March 24th, 2009

    I’m pretty sure you can also get dried bucatini at a number of places along Commercial Drive. Thinking Santa Barbara, First Ravioli, etc. Can’t wait to try this!

  7. Posted on March 25th, 2009

    I picked up bucatini at Santa Barbara when I was in the neighborhood this morning. FYI, they have several different brands (go Santa Barbara). This is on the menu for tomorrow night.

  8. Posted on March 25th, 2009

    Awesome Brianna! Look forward to your report…and anyone else’s for that matter. Let’s share the guanciale love!

  9. Posted on March 26th, 2009

    Awesome! I have both those books and love Italian cooking at home (and Italian wines to match! mmmmmm).

    Oyama does a wonderful Guanciale and if you are ever Seattle bound, you must try Mario Battali’s father’s place, Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, for beautiful Guanciale and Pancetta.

    I usually call ahead and reserve if I am heading down as the stuff sells fast.

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Posted on March 27th, 2009

    I bought a giant hunk of guanciale at Oyama. I experimented with it for everything from Coq au Vin to pastas. It’s very cool.

  11. Posted on March 29th, 2009

    this is one of my favorite Italian recipes, altho I don’t make it often enough. thanks for the reminder!

  12. Posted on November 24th, 2010

    Fantastic. I’ve been on a big noodle craze lately, I have no idea why – I just got a crazy craving for noodles!! Is that even possible? I’ve already tried nearly half of all the noodle recipes at this site and looking for more still! Crazy huh. I should probably stop soon, I dont think eating noodles every day cant be good for me…

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