Summer Swoon: Bucatini with Spicy Summer Tomatoes

By: Athena Calderone, Cook Beautiful
Summer Swoon: Bucatini with Spicy Summer Tomatoes

There’s a good reason there’s only one pasta recipe in the summer chapter of my cookbook. It’s the one that I turn to again and again all summer long. At the heart of this dish are cherry tomatoes, those stars of late summer. While all tomatoes have a place in my kitchen, I’m particularly enamored of these little jewels for their sweet, nuanced flavor. Cooked until they burst open, they’re infused with a touch of fresh chile and a bright punch of lemon. Because this recipe is so simple, salt and pasta water are your friends here. Salting early and often helps break down the tomatoes, which enhances their flavor and helps release their sweet juices. Saving the pasta water is also crucial. Its starch, coupled with the pecorino’s richness, binds and thickens the dish, melding all ingredients.

Bucatini with Spicy Summer Tomatoes


  • ⅓ cup (75 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Five cloves of garlic smashed and sliced
  • 3 pints (30 to 36 ounces/850 to 1,020 g) of cherry tomatoes, 1 pint halved
  • One teaspoon of finely diced habanero chile
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • Two lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 pound (455 g) dried bucatini
  • ⅓ cup (35 g) grated pecorino, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup (40 g) lightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup (50 g) lightly packed fresh parsley, roughly chopped, plus more for serving

Method of Preparation:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is lightly golden about 2 minutes. Add all of the tomatoes and chile. Season generously with salt.
  2. Cook until the tomatoes begin to burst, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in half the lemon zest and all the lemon juice. Continue to cook until most of the tomatoes have burst and begun to break down, 3 to 5
  3. minutes. Set them aside and cover them to keep warm. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the bucatini and cook according to the package directions until al dente.
  4. Reserve 1 cup (240 ml) of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the tomato mixture, pecorino, and ½ cup (120 ml) of the pasta water to the pot and toss to combine.
  5. Add additional pasta water, as needed, to make a light sauce. Stir in the fresh herbs and a generous drizzle of olive oil—season with salt and pepper.
  6. To serve, sprinkle the pasta with additional herbs, pepper, pecorino, and the remaining lemon zest.


Swoon tip:

It can be tempting to heap pasta into one massive dish, nonna style, but I find that piling it into individual shallow, wide-rim bowls elevates its visual impact. The key is to use a pair of tongs. As you place the bucatini in the bowl, gently grab some noodles and twist them, so they turn in on themselves. You want to create a loose nest, making sure a few tomatoes and herbs are able to peek through.

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