Funny isn’t it.
You can get spaghetti in the shops for next to nothing in the UK; as little as 50p for a supermarket own brand – but you get what you pay for of course. A decent brand like De Cecco costs around £1.50.
Start delving into the stranger shapes and you could be paying twice that. Same ingredients, there or thereabouts, just a different form. I know, I know it’s all about economies of scale, but go with me on this.
I confess I’m a sucker for the more obscure pasta shapes, especially if it comes in rustic paper packaging and with nothing but Italian written on it. I’m a food importer’s dream. I must say decent pasta does make a difference – it has better bite – but I think there is a bit of a plateau, once you get to a certain price point. A bit like wine really.
Walking around town the other day I spied this bucatini: paper packaging. Check. English instructions? No. Check. Funky shape? Close enough. Check. Cost £4.95. Jeez…
As you can see they’re thick hollow tubes, about the same thickness as Pici.
I bought it anyway of course but now what to do with it? l had a recipe for bigoli in salsa from my prized Polpo recipe book that suggests bucatini as a nice alternative. The ‘salsa’ in question is mainly anchovy fillet though, so I wasn’t sure Helen would have shared my enthusiasm.
This recipes was the obvious answer in the end of course. It’s the Romanised and therefore more widely recognised version of the Amatrice dish that authentically calls for spaghetti, pecorino Amatriciano and cured pork jowl called Guanciale *closes Google tab* Pancetta is a worthy alternative it seems though thankfully. I’ll try and get the ‘original’ ingredients in the future but trying to emulate super-regional dishes in a different country will test even the best stocked delis.
If you can get a nice block of pancetta like this, it’s so much better than the ready cubed supermarket version. It’s no more expensive generally either.
One thing I did find is that the sauce, being made with dry white wine and tomatoes, turns out very sharp in flavour. Unpleasantly so for my personal taste. Maybe using the type of sweet fresh tomato you get in sun bathed Italy the results are different, but here in the UK? So, as much as it pains me with current clamp down on excessive sugar, I had to add a teaspoon in. It’s still a tenth of what you’d find in a can of Coke though and it makes enough sauce for 4 so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep.
Oh and a word of warning: bucatini, being pretty thick, has a certain ‘spring’ to it. After eating the left overs for work in the office, I ended up looking like an extra in Reservoir Dogs.
Thankfully I had no meetings that day.
- 300-400g bucatini pasta
- Olive oil for frying. Not extra virgin, it’s a waste.
- 1 can of plum tomatoes.
- 1 Glass white wine
- 1 red chilli
- 200g pancetta
- 1 onion
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar (or as you need it).
- Pecorino (or parmesan) and extra virgin olive oil to serve.
Slice the pancetta into thick cubes and finely dice the onion.
Brown the pancetta in a medium sized frying pan. When crisp, turn the heat down and add the onion and chilli. Cook gently until softened but don’t colour it..
Add the wine to the onion and pancetta and reduce to almost gone.
Finally, pour in the tomatoes and reduce.
While this is happening, start the pasta. 1l/35 fl oz salted water per 100g. It will take about 12 minutes. Better to have the sauce ready before the pasta.
The pasta sauce should be fairly thick when done. Season to taste with the sugar, salt and pepper.
If you can, drain the pasta just before it’s done and return to the pot – keeping a few tbsp of water back. Add the sauce and reserved water and finish it off with the lid on. It’ll take on a bit more of flavour of the sauce.
Serve it with pecorino, or parmesan if not, black pepper and a quick drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
You’d love the Mediterranean shop down the road from me – they have De Cecco tennis racket shaped pasta (Racchette – 90)!
Yes. Yes, I would MD. Perfect for a shameless Wimbledon tie-in! Med Delis are thin on the ground in this neck of the woods though sadly.
I must buy some myself to see what they are like. Chicago John mentioned them a year or so ago and I was surprised to find them locally.
Lovely stuff Phil. One does get that for which one pays. That is for sure. I agree on the plateau thing too. Not os sure about the wine though….
Thanks very much Conor. Hmm, yes, I should have qualified than analogy a bit better – I meant to say I find there is a price point – around £8-£20 (€10-€25?) where I find it’s really down to preference. Unlike pasta though, wine does have an almost unlimited price range….
Well put. I would not be going north of that range.
I made the same thing yesterday evening but didn’t take any pics! I used smoked bacon pieces in here! We loved it too! I will try your version soon! The dish looks slipmacking tasty!
Thanks, Phil! 🙂 x
Spooky coincidence Sophie. I’m sure your version would taste as good – just don’t eat my version with white clothes on. Disaster!
I’ve enjoyed catching up on your posts. My husband never orders a dish made with bucatini just for the reason you mentioned. I wouldn’t mine a dish of your pasta…I’ll just tuck a napkin in under my chin. 😀
Ditto on the posts Karen. Until red shirts come into fashion, and I’m not holding my breath on that one, it will have to be napkin tucking for me too! Or, I’ll order short pasta…