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sunday dinner: bucatini with butter-roasted tomato sauce.

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We are a Bon Appétit family. Some people are Food & Wine families, some people are Cook’s Illustrated or Saveur families, some people are like what are you talking about we don’t categorize ourselves by what cooking magazine we subscribe to, you crazy person. And that’s all fine.

But since I was a little kid, we’ve always been a Bon Appétit family. We’d sit around our kitchen island as a family and pour over the issue when it arrived each month, trying different recipes, the best of which were torn from the magazine and saved in my mother’s bubble gum pink recipe binder. We still have every November Thanksgiving issue, displayed proudly on a special shelf in my parents’ pantry. They are our culinary bibles. There are recipes from those issues that I know by heart, that I cherish on the same level as family mementos. They are my family mementos. When I went off to college, it wasn’t with a subscription to Cosmo or Seventeen or Us Weekly, it was with a subscription to Bon Appétit. The one that I still have today, 16 years later.

Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce is one of my favorite BA recipes from recent years, one that I make on Sundays when I want something simple and satisfying, and when I want my apartment to smell like my non-existent Italian grandmother has been cooking all day. Except she hasn’t because this baby is ready and on the table in under an hour.

Is there a better culinary phrase than ‘butter-roasted’? I think not. It implies homey, rich, comforting. And when you combine it with the sweetness of roasted tomatoes, the umami of garlic and anchovies (it’s not fishy, I promise), and the toothsome quality of bucatini (spaghetti’s portlier cousin), it makes for a hearty, warm dish with just a hint of spice.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce

You will need:

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash of balsamic vinegar
12 oz. box of bucatini (spaghetti also works)
Grated parmesan reggiano

Kitchen equipment: 13×9 inch baking dish, large pot for cooking pasta

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is warming, open your can of tomatoes and using your hands, crush the tomatoes and place them in the baking dish. Be careful as you do this; the tomatoes are likely to squirt juice all over the place as you crush them, potentially ruining your kitchen counter and/or your favorite Sunday sweater. Aprons all around, mmm’k?

Once all the tomatoes are properly crushed, discard the tomato liquid and the can. Next, peel and trim your garlic cloves and give them a good whack with the back of your chef’s knife to crush them. The original recipe that was my inspiration for this called for eight cloves — that’s a little too aggressive for me, so I ended up using six. If you love garlic, go for the full eight; if you want a milder garlic flavor, maybe only use four. You do you.

Add the crushed garlic cloves to the tomatoes, spreading evenly in a single layer across the dish. Next, toss in two anchovy fillets, then add the butter cubes, nestling them into the tomatoes in an even layer. Finally, top with the red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.

When the oven is ready, place your baking dish on the middle rack of the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes, stirring once about half way through the cooking time.

While the sauce is cooking, heat a large pot of salted water on high until boiling, then add your pasta and cook per package instructions. When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

When the sauce is done, the garlic should be very soft and the tomatoes should look a bit like jam. Remove from the oven, and using a fork or a potato masher, blend the sauce to mash the garlic and the tomatoes. Add a few dashes of balsamic vinegar and stir to incorporate. This adds a bit of sweetness to balance the salty/buttery flavor of the anchovies and the, well, butter.

To finish the dish, add the cooked sauce and the reserved pasta water to the pasta in the pot and heat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes, stirring and tossing regularly. When the sauce clings to the pasta and the pasta water is cooked down, you’re good to go.

Plate the pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy with a full-bodied red wine and a crusty baguette…and perhaps the new issue of Bon Appétit. You know that’s what I’ll be doing.

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