It is a version of a recipe developed by Enzo Perlini at his visionary Roman inspired restaurant in Casselberry, Florida – a suburb of Orlando. Enzo opened his restaurant in 1979. It was the first Italian fine dining restaurant in the Orlando area. By 1980, I was regular at Enzo’s and dined there for 25 years before leaving Florida.
Bucatini alla Enzo is a signature dish at this restaurant. I could not visit Enzo’s without ordering this dish. It is a well conceived, but simple combination of pasta, bacon, black pepper, English peas and Parmesan. I knew the flavors of this dish well and was able to replicate it at home. Since, it has endured as a go-to recipe and the ingredients can always be found in my panty.
Sadly, Enzo passed on in 2006. The restaurant continues under the capable leadership of his former wife and long time staff — Susan and Paulo – who nurture his vision. Since I have moved to California, I miss Enzo’s on the Lake. This dish takes me back to remember Enzo, the staff and the fine times I had dining there.
In preparing this recipe, I recently searched the Internet for Bucatini alla Enzo and found a recipe for this dish in a 1986 article written by Dorothy Chapman – the first food writer for the Orlando Sentinel. There was no Internet when I originally developed my version.
Enzo provided this recipe to Ms. Chapman and it includes mushrooms, prosciutto and Romano cheese (in combination with the Parmesan). I didn’t remember the prosciutto and did not recognize the Pecorino Romano cheese and have never used either. I did eventually add mushrooms to my version thinking it an innovation, but Dorothy’s recipe proves me wrong.
The key ingredients – bacon, bucatini, Parmesan, English peas and black pepper– warrant discussion. I have tried this recipe with fancier alternatives to bacon such as pancetta. But, this recipe works best with any good quality, thick sliced bacon that is in your larder. In other words, don’t bother with the more expensive pancetta or guanciale.
Bucatini (or Perciatelli) is a thick dried pasta with a hole through the center. Don’t ask me why, but this is the only pasta shape that works. Don’t even think about substituting thinner alternatives such as spaghetti or fettuccini.
The cheese used in this recipe is imported, freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano. There is no substitute. I haven’t tried the combination of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano mentioned in the Chapman recipe. I don’t think this combination is essential to the dish, but next time I have Romano cheese on hand, I’ll give it a try. It can’t hurt.
I really love fresh English peas, but frozen peas are called for here. Remember this is an easy “pantry” dish and should use what is normally on hand. Shelling and cooking fresh peas would increase the preparation time four fold.
Lastly, this recipe as described is for one. It can easily be multiplied to serve as many as four. The preparation does not lend itself to serving a large group, however.
- 4 ounces Bucatini (or Perciatelli) pasts
- 2 – 1/8 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon everyday olive oil
- 2 slices, thick cut bacon cross cut into lardons about ½” wide
- 1 slices chopped Prosciutto (optional)
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 4 sliced white button mushrooms (other mushrooms may be substituted)
- 4 tablespoons frozen English Peas
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano
- 1/8 cup Pecorino Romano substituted for Parmesan (optional)
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste
- Bring 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Add 4 ounces of Bucatini pasta and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, or until al dente
- Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add bacon, prosciutto, minced garlic and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, and then add remaining 1/8-tablespoon salt (or to taste), cheese and English peas. Cook for 1 minute more.
- Add cooked bucatini to the sauté pan and heat for 1 minute. Add a generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper.
- Serve in a pasta bowl with additional Parmesan grated on top.