Bucatini all'Amatriciana

I've always found it kind of cool how distinct the myriad of pasta shapes are, despite being made of the same ingredients. A pasta dish can be completely transformed just by changing the shape of noodle used. I can't think of another food that is like this! 

The pairing of pastas and their sauces are usually based on how the shape interacts with the sauce. For instance, short, tubular pastas like penne and rigatoni work well with hearty, chunky sauces, whereas thin noodles like spaghetti and capellini  are often served with thinner, smooth sauces. That being said, when I was little, I couldn't care less about the art of pasta-sauce pairing. All that mattered was that the pasta shape was fun to eat. The right shape made dinner infinitely tastier. Shells and scoobi-doos were my shapes of choice. And I can't forget Zoodles--the safari in a bowl! 

Some of the more unusual shapes I have come across include radiatori (which look like little radiators) and the rather creatively-named Lingua di Suocera ("Mother in Law's Tongue"!). Today I used bucatini, which is a fat noodle with a hole in the center. It used to be a "specialty pasta" but it's becoming easier to find in regular grocery stores. It's Roman in origin and is quite a hearty, chewy pasta. I prepared it with a sauce made from tomatoes and pancetta to make a dish called bucatini all'amatriciana. It's topped with a little basil for extra flavour and served with mozarella stuffed meatballs. 

Recipe after the jump!

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 roma tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano

1 small grated onion
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsey
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tablespoons ketchup
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground veal
2 ounces mozzarella cheese (I used bocconcini)

1 pound bucatini

For the sauce: In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and reserve. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and the cooked pancetta. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
For the meatballs: Position an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the onion, 1/2 cup parsley, 2/3 cup Parmesan, bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, garlic, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the beef and veal. Using your hands, combine all ingredients gently but thoroughly. Shape the meat mixture into 16 (1 1/2-inch-diameter) meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Make a hole in the center of each meatball and place a cube of mozzarella inside. Reform the meatball so that the mozzarella is completely covered with the meat mixture. Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes until cooked through.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and place in a large serving bowl. Add the meatballs and sauce. Toss gently and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and Parmesan.

Recipe partly adapted from Giada de Laurentiis Remember Rome
Image property of beetsandbites

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