When I was young, butter and noodles were all it took to thrill me. I was a pasta purist, I never liked it overdressed. Too much sauce just got in the way of the carbs. Fast forward to today and nothing much has changed. I still like my pasta sparsely sauced and plentiful. And I have a healthy appreciation for the simpler noods out there. But there are a few things that have changed and this 40 Clove Bucatini reflects those perfectly. My taste for bitter foods being the biggest shift, followed closely by my love of intense flavors. This seemingly simple bowl highlights both – with ribbons of bitter and brilliant radicchio and a thin but potent sauce flavored by 3 heads of roasted garlic.
What I love most about this 40 Clove Bucatini is its balance. The sweetness from the garlic is complimented by the astringency of the radicchio. The mild mozzarella serves as a tranquil companion to the potent sauce. And the crisp garlic breadcrumbs are the perfect foil for the tender bucatini. Honestly, I’m quite proud my brain was able to cook up this concoction. Sure, it’s short on novelty but there’s something about it that feels grown-up, almost classy – which isn’t a natural state for me.
This recipe calls for 3 heads of garlic, so I think having more than a passive relationship with the stuff is a requirement for this dish. You have to love it with wild abandon because you will likely taste it for three days. I did. But having said that, roasted garlic is much mellower than fresh. So if you love garlic but don’t love the astringency of the raw stuff, this bud’s for you. For the record – I love both raw and roasted garlic but it all depends on how you use them. In other words, you will never catch me consuming three-heads-worth of raw garlic.
From there, the roasted garlic is converted into a paste. Now, I will warn you, roasted garlic paste is pretty sticky. You’re going to need a fair amount of pasta water to convert it into a noodle-coating pasta sauce. But I’m getting ahead of myself because we still have to address the garlic breadcrumbs.
Is there a child anywhere that doesn’t care for garlic bread? I sure as sugar have never met one. When I was little, I was a garlic bread fiend. You couldn’t rip the stuff from my chubby fingers, emphasis on “chubby”. And, to be honest, I still find it hard to control myself around a loaf of the buttery stuff. So in spite of the classiness of this 40 Clove Bucatini, there’s still a whole lot in this dish for your inner child.
The breadcrumbs that adorn this 40 Clove Bucatini are not garlic bread per se. They are more inspired by garlic bread because they are in fact panko breadcrumbs tossed with a tablespoon of the garlic paste before being baked in the oven. And I went about it this way because I didn’t want to waste good garlic bread. A worthy cause, wouldn’t you say? Who wants to make a perfectly good batch of garlic bread only to blitz it? Sounds cruel to me.
With the breadcrumbs golden and the pasta pleasantly al dente, all that remains is to marry everything together. This process happens quickly in a large deep skillet. The paste is introduced to the pasta and pasta water works to dilute the paste enough to coat each strand. The sauce comes together with a hefty mountain in shredded Grana Padano or parm and the radicchio is added at the last minute.
At this point I felt the dish could use a little green, so I added a sprinkling of arugula. If bitter on bitter is not your speed, might I suggest wilting a bit of kale or you could out yourself as an allium-obsessive and add some finely chopped scallions. Whatever breed of green you choose, this 40 Clove Bucatini ends the same way with a ball of sliced fresh mozzarella. You could also go with burrata. Actually, I think you should go with burrata. I wanted to get burrata but there was none to be had at my local grocery store.
So that’s everything you need to know about this 40 Clove Bucatini with Radicchio & Fresh Mozzarella. A classy upgrade of the stripped down pasta favorites of my youth.
40 Clove Bucatini with Radicchio & Fresh Mozzarella
- Large, deep skillet
- 3 heads garlic tops lobbed off
- 4 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 450g (1 lb) dried bucatini
- 3 shallots halved and sliced
- 1½ cups Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese shredded
- ½ head radicchio finely chopped
- 1 cup arugula
- ½ lemon juiced
- 1 ball fresh mozzarella sliced
- additional Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for sprinkling
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the garlic heads on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle half of the olive oil over top. Sprinkle the heads generously with salt and transfer to the oven. Roast the garlic for 35-40 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool slightly. Don't turn off the oven.
- Remove the garlic cloves from their heads and place them in a food processor. Blitz until a thick paste forms. Add a splash of olive oil to help the process along. Transfer the finished paste to a bowl.
- Place the panko breadcrumbs in a separate bowl. Add a tablespoon of the garlic paste to the breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Pour the breadcrumbs onto a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and toast the breadcrumbs for 10-15 minutes, turning once half way through. Once golden, take the breadcrumbs out of the oven and finish with sprinkle of salt. Set aside to cool.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Liberally salt the water and add the bucatini. Cook according to the package's directions. When tender, drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid, and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining olive oil in a large, deep skillet until shimmering. Add the shallots and a healthy pinch of salt. Sauté over medium-low until translucent.
- Add the pasta and garlic paste to the skillet and as much pasta water as is required to dilute the paste enough to coat the pasta. Once a glossy sauce forms, stir in the cheese. Once the cheese melts, take the pasta off of the heat and add in the radicchio, arugula, and lemon juice. Toss to disperse. Taste and season with salt accordingly.
- Place the pasta on a large platter and cover it with a sprinkling of garlic breadcrumbs. Finish with slices of fresh mozzarella and serve immediately with additional cheese for sprinkling and lemon wedges.