I’ve had a package of bucatini sitting in my pantry for a couple months now. I haven’t known what to do with it. Bucatini recipes aren’t exactly abundant, I’ve found. So I decided that what I needed was just a special sauce, because this is a special noodle. I bought a pound of it at an Italian specialty shop, and I think it was $13 or something crazy like that. It tasted—I don’t know—my inability with words in painfully obvious here, but I just can’t describe it except to say that it had a quality that was distinctly different from the pasta I normally buy at the grocery store. It was heartier, somehow. The noodles were sturdy yet tender. It was delicious, and, although I often feel that pasta plays second fiddle to its sauce, the bucatini was the star of the show here.
Which is not to say that the sauce wasn’t also delicious. It was, and I’ll definitely make it again. I made Emeril’s oreganata tomato sauce, which had originally been intended for rigatoni, which I’m definitely going to try in the future. It’s an incredibly simple sauce made with tomatoes, cream, and fresh basil and oregano. This was my first time working with fresh oregano, and I really like it. It has adorable fuzzy little leaves that remind me of a miniature African violet. That’s them nestled on top of the butter below—aren’t they cute?
I often serve garlic bread with pasta, but when I have a lot of fresh herbs around that are beginning to move past their prime, my favorite way to use them up is to make fresh herb butter. Don’t ever be afraid of buying a bundle of fresh herbs because you only need a couple tablespoons and you don’t know what to do with the rest. Herb butter is incredibly easy, adaptable, and delicious. I served about . . . oh . . . maybe 10 slices of Italian bread last night, and for that I used 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Let the butter come to room temperature, then add a small handful of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, finely chopped. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil, add a small pinch of salt and a smaller pinch of pepper, and combine thoroughly. It’s delicious on warm bread. I used a few thyme sprigs, a couple of basil leaves, a bit of oregano, a pinch of rosemary, and some parsley. But I usually don’t have that much variety, and I’ve made it with just parsley and thyme or parsley and basil and it’s always delicious.
Below is the recipe for the pasta oreganta. This sauce would work with any noodle, I think, but it was especially great with the bucatini. Bucatini is a tad difficult to eat; it’s long, so you want to twirl it around your fork, but it plumps up a lot when it cooks and is really too round and thick to fit around the tines. In those situations you don’t want too much sauce, or it’ll splatter everywhere as you’re trying to slurp up the noodles. This recipe makes just enough sauce to put a thin, even, delicious coating on a pound of bucatini.
adapted from Rigatoni Oreganata
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound bucatini
1 small onion, diced onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Set a large stockpot filled with water over high heat and bring to a boil. Season the water with the kosher salt and add the bucatini. While the pasta cooks, set a 14-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the oregano and basil. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste and stir well to combine. Continue to cook the sauce until it is slightly reduced, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream to the pan. By this time the pasta should be almost al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and the reserved cooking water to the sauce in the pan and season with the salt and pepper. Continue to cook, tossing the pasta, until it is well coated with the sauce. Stir in the parsley and serve with Parmesan.