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Bucatini vs Spaghetti (What’s the difference?)

Most people have not heard of bucatini in their childhood or growing up, but these long tubes have become ever more popular in the last few years.

But what exactly makes them so different from spaghetti? 

The biggest difference is that bucatini has a hole running through their center and is also slightly thicker than spaghetti. Due to their shape, people have also used them – in their uncooked state, of course – as an edible and environment-friendly drinking straw, which even lead to a bucatini shortage in the U.S. in 2020. 

In recent years, bucatini’s popularity has increased. Fans of this shape like that it, contrary to spaghetti, is not only coated with sauce but fills up with it, too, giving you more sauce per noodle.

Bucatini vs Spaghetti (What's the difference?)
Bucatini vs Spaghetti (What’s the difference?)

This makes it the perfect vehicle for smooth sauces with few or no chunks, like Cacio e Pepe or carbonara. 

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What Is Bucatini Pasta? 

Like spaghetti, bucatini belong to the long pasta shapes, or pasta lunga; unlike spaghetti, they also belong to the category of tubular pasta, like penne, ziti, and macaroni. 

Their name comes from the Italian word buco, meaning “hole.” In some places, this pasta is also known as perciatelli, which means “pierced.”

When you cannot seem to find bucatini in your local supermarket, the reason might be that it says perciatelli on the packet! 

Bucatini pasta comes from the Lazio region in central Italy. It is often used in sauces that contain ham. A typical Roman dish is a bucatini all’ amatriciana, which contains quality ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, pancetta (salt-cured pork belly meat), and grated Pecorino Romano. 

What Is Bucatini Pasta?
What Is Bucatini Pasta?

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Due to the hole in their center, bucatini fills up with velvety, smooth, sauces, giving you a lot of flavor per bite. This makes them ideal for creamy butter, cream, or seafood-based sauces. 

There are three variations of bucatini: the “normal” one, which is simply called bucatini, a smaller version called bucatini piccoli, a big version called bucatini grandi, and a grooved version called bucatini rigati. 

The origin of the hole inside bucatini likely lies in the traditional method of making it by hand, though.

The pasta dough was stretched around a thin rod called a ferretto, which was then withdrawn, resulting in the hole.

While you can buy Ferretto for your personal kitchen, most people for whom cooking is a more casual hobby – or a simple necessity – consider this method to be too much of an effort.

Why shape every single noodle by hand when a machine can do it much quicker?  

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More dedicated home cooks might enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with eating something that has been painstakingly crafted by hand, though, and giving something a try is never a bad idea.

If you do not want to commit to buying a ferretto, you could improvise with a knitting needle or the wire part of a clothes hanger. 

Bucatini pasta comes from the Lazio region in central Italy
Bucatini pasta comes from the Lazio region in central Italy

Bucatini is cooked for 8 to twelve minutes – it is recommended to use a shorter cooking time and finish it up in the pan with the sauce so that it is soaked full of flavor. 

The danger of cooking bucatini too long is that it then swells up, closing the hole in the center. Then, you basically end up with a thick and flobby spaghetti, so keep an eye on the clock! 

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Bucatini vs Spaghetti 

A central difference between bucatini and spaghetti lies in their production process. Spaghetti are rolled, but because of their hole, bucatini have to be extracted from a machine.

To make bucatini at home without resorting to the traditional method I mentioned above, you will need a pasta maker with an extruder.

Bucatini vs Spaghetti
Bucatini vs Spaghetti

The dough is then pressed through a perforated disk that produces the long, hollow strands. 

While its biggest advantage to spaghetti is bucatini’s ability to fill up with sauce, a lot of the fans of this particular pasta shape also insist that it is simply more fun to eat since the hole adds an interesting, unexpected texture to the meal. 

In most dishes, you can replace spaghetti and bucatini with each other. In the end, it comes down to personal preference whether you enjoy the traditional mouthfeel of spaghetti or the maybe more exciting texture of bucatini.