Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce

plate of bucatini

I left Tara Kitchen on Saturday afternoon, my belly filled with chicken and preserved lemons, my bag with jars of harissa, tomato jam, and ras-el-hanout. I had just spent two hours learning about Moroccan cooking, scribbling notes while sipping on mint tea, assembling tagines, photographing each step, savoring every bite and finally departing, only hoping my brain might retain a fraction of what I had learned, already regretting not having purchased a tagine.

But before returning home, I had to swing by the Co-op for one thing — a bag of frozen peas and carrots — an integral mix in Tara Kitchen’s chickpea tagine, a dish I would make at home later that evening. Aneesa Waheed, the owner of Tara Kitchen, takes pride in the simplicity of the dishes she serves and noted as class began that all of the ingredients she uses can be found at any market. Her chickpea tagine, a slightly sweet mixture of vegetables and dried fruits mixed with chickpeas and her homemade tomato jam, is one of my favorites.

Never would I have guessed that such a flavorful mixture — a vegan, nut-free one to boot — could be so simple to prepare, but as I learned in class, this is the beauty of tagine cooking. Aneesa fell in love with Moroccan food for this very reason: she could throw a handful of ingredients in a tagine, set it on the stove, go take a shower, make a few phone calls, and return to a steaming hot, delicious and satisfying dinner. And while the success of the finished tagines certainly depends on the sauces and spice mixtures that have been prepped in advance, I can attest to the simplicity of the tagine-making process.

All of Aneesa’s tagines begin in the same manner: with sliced onions and minced garlic, a splash of water and oil, and a sprinkling of ras-el-hanout, which translates to “head of the shop,” meaning the best spice mixture a seller has to offer. No two ras-el-hanouts are the same, and Aneesa’s contains over a dozen spices. What goes into each tagine next varies but a few of my favorite combinations include spinach with lentils and artichoke hearts, fish with honey and nuts, and, as you might recall, chicken with green olives and preserved lemons*. Much to my surprise, the meats are not browned ahead of time, and the onions and garlic are not sautéed. And yet the finished tagines, each with its own unique character, taste far from simple, no doubt a tribute to Aneesa’s magical touch with the ras-el-hanout and various sauces.

I spent the rest of the weekend dreaming of those tagines, the distinct flavor of the ras-el-hanout, the steam escaping below each coned lid, the stewy vegetables, the tender meat, and the fish that miraculously retains its heat while not overcooking the slightest. I tried hard to refrain, but by Sunday evening, I had found my way to eBay and to a pair of 8-inch tagines**, which should be arriving today. I couldn’t be more excited.

What, might you be wondering does all of this have to do with bucatini with butter-roasted tomato sauce? Well, not much, except that when I began thinking about how I might provide a recipe for Aneesa’s chickpea tagine, I realized I would have to provide a recipe for her tomato jam, a mixture of tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes cooked with garlic, parsley and ras-el-hanout, a sauce that binds all of the elements together and gives the tagine both a sweetness and bite.

Thinking about making tomato jam reminded me of this butter-roasted tomato sauce, a sauce I first tried last November but have made several times since. While nothing, of course, compares to fresh tomato sauce, for as little effort as this sauce requires, it’s incredibly tasty thanks to the inclusion of butter, anchovies and a lot of garlic. Furthermore, roasting the sauce (versus simmering) concentrates the flavor of the canned plum tomatoes. I find I always have to add a pinch of sugar at the end to balance the acidity, but otherwise, this is a great, easy-to-make, all-purpose tomato sauce. Here I’ve made it with bucatini as the original recipe suggests but I’ve also spread it over pizza. And I haven’t yet tried this, but Bon Appetit suggests puréeing the sauce with stock and a splash of cream for a simple tomato soup. Sounds promising.

*This is what I learned from Aneesa about making/using preserved lemons: Aneesa does not use Meyer lemons at the restaurant because of cost, but she believes their thin skin makes them ideal for preserving. She uses the more traditional preserving method (the Jerusalem method vs the BA method). She never rinses the lemons before using. In fact, once her lemons are preserved, she purées the whole batch — lemons, salt and juice — and uses spoonfuls of her puréed preserved lemons in various dishes. Upon returning home, I whizzed my whole batch of Jerusalem preserved lemons in the food processor and now have a jar of purée I am certain will last a decade.

Aneesa sells all of her spices, sauces, preserved lemons, and Moroccan mint tea at Tara Kitchen, and she offers cooking classes once a month: Tara Kitchen: 431 liberty street | schenectady | 518-708-3485

**Tagines did arrive yesterday, but I am returning. SO sorry to any of you who ordered one. Despite the photo, there is no air hole, and from what I learned from Aneesa, that seems to be key. I’m bummed.


cruhed tomatoes


roasted sauce

roasted sauce




Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Source: Bon Appetit


  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch sugar (optional)
  • 12 oz. bucatini or spaghetti
  • Finely grated Parmesan (for serving)


  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine tomatoes (crushing them with your hands), garlic, anchovies, butter, and red pepper flakes to taste (note: 1/2 teaspoon makes for a very spicy sauce) in a 13x9” baking dish; season with salt and black pepper.
  2. Roast, tossing halfway through, until garlic is very soft and mixture is jammy, 35–40 minutes. Using a potato masher or fork, mash to break up garlic and tomatoes, or, if you live with little people, purée the mixture in a food processor. Taste. Adjust seasoning with a pinch of sugar (1/4 teaspoon or more) if necessary.
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.
  4. Return pasta to pot and add tomato sauce and pasta cooking liquid (or simply place cooked pasta in a large serving bowl and toss with sauce and a splash of cooking liquid if necessary.) Cook over medium-high heat, tossing until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve topped with Parmesan and more red pepper flakes.
  5. Note: Tomato sauce can be made 4 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat before mixing with pasta.

plate of bucatini


  1. Jodi says

    I’ve been making this for a few months now, after seeing it on Bon Appetit. It’s fabulous. I may never make another tomato sauce again.

  2. says

    WHAT? Nothing .. and I repeat .. NOTHING special about this recipe … Do NOT waste your tme. People … Use a jar of your favorite pasta sauce … Period. As usual … yet another food blog … that uses “words” to replace taste and ingredients.

  3. Janelle says

    I made this tonight for dinner and it was so wonderful! I loved how easy it was and took so little hands-on time. There is something very special about being able to take a few simple ingredients and creating a wonderful dish. I didn’t have any anchovies but I am anxious to try it with them as well. This will definitely be my go-to tomato sauce recipe. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! Your pictures are beautiful as well.

    • says

      So happy to hear this Janelle! I feel the same way — I feel like no canned tomato sauce recipe I make requires as little effort for such great flavor. Thanks for writing in!

  4. Chrissy in Jersey says

    Alexandra- I have been a long time quiet admirer but decided to tell you after reading that comment that I love your blog, your writing, and all your recipes. I look forward to every post. I hold your blog to be FAR from ordinary and continuously inspirational. Thank you! :)

    • says

      Thank you so much for writing in, Chrissy. It means a lot. I mean, I really can just laugh off comments like Gary’s but deep down it still stings a bit — I feel my face turning red and thinking what did I do?! But when I hear from people like you, I am encouraged to carry on. Thank you, really!

  5. Teri says

    This looks like something I can handle! The preserved lemons are a little out of my league, though I love reading about your Moroccan cooking adventures. Always a great read!

  6. annette says

    I actually have a curious question since I ammaking this tomorrow. How do you clean the glass container…any tips or tricks?

    • says

      The pan definitely benefits from a nice soak. And it does take some elbow grease to get the caramelized bits off. Do you have bar keeper’s friend? Or bon ami? Those help, too. Hope you like this!

    • says

      Preeti, we should go to Tara Kitchen together sometime! It would be so much fun. No bucatini there, but lots of yummy vegetarian tagines. I hope you are well!

  7. Laurie says

    I will spare all my diatribe regarding above hateful and untrue comment and simply say that your presence in my life and kitchen has been nothing short of serendipity….your blog is filled with inspiration, grace, genius and humor. I will be forever grateful to the universe for letting me find it and you…XO

  8. trish says

    I am saddened that someone would use your beautiful blog to hurt you. But remember, Ali, his comment is a reflection of who he is. It has nothing to do with you. Personally, your words inspire me to be a better cook, they challenge me to try new things, they make me laugh and often they touch me when you speak of stories of a family you clearly love. I discovered your blog shortly before my beloved father passed away and I can’t tell you how much it helped me through that time. Because your blog is more than just about food. It is about connecting and sharing, through food, with those we love dearly. Thank you for sharing your talents.

    • says

      Trish, hi, and thank you so much for your kind words. I did not know that about your father, and I’m glad the blog provided some comfort during that time. It is always so nice to hear from you, and I am so grateful we have been able to connect over food these past few years. Thank you for coming to my defense. Have a wonderful weekend!

  9. Mama Poule says

    Hey super mama! Delete any nasty comments from your blog, and like my mother says just say to yourself “forgive him God, he doesn’t know any better!! ” Then kiss your babies which always gives a good perspective on things, and then come back here and rave about something even simpler, like grated carrots or something! And be proud of yourself for the lovely community you have created here.
    And if you want, I can find and send you a proper tagine from over here, they sell them everywhere. Actually I think Le Creuset makes a good one. Anyway, enjoy the weekend and keep posting!! Xoxo

    • says

      Oh Mama Poule, so much wisdom! And I followed your advice and kissed my babies, giving extras to Wren, who has had a fever for two days…puts it all into perspective for sure. Thank you for your kind words.

      And you are too nice to offer to send me a proper tagine, but I will take a look here first before I put you through that trouble. Love Le Creuset, and I think my kitchen could use a little color. I will keep you posted. I’m so bummed to return my two little tagines. They are so cute, but I think the air hole is kind of key. Hope you are having a nice weekend. Thanks for writing in!

  10. says

    I am sad to hear about the lack of hole in your Tagine. I hope a replacement comes soon and I am excited and eager waiting…I haven’t used my Tagine for weeks now…must play with it again soon.

  11. says

    You did an AMAZING job of pulling me in to read your blog. I had NO idea what bucatini was. I realized it was a noodle from the picture of course.
    And then when I see the word butter—-I am off and running like a greyhound chasing the rabbit.

  12. Ilona says

    This sauce is so tasty and so easy to make. We ate it with soba noodles. I will cook it again, for sure. And I love your posts so much, especially when you write about your children and feeding them :) I also live with ‘little people’ and know exactly what you mean :) Greetings from Poland.

  13. says

    There were no “words” spoken around our table this evening – only Mmmms and Aaaahhs. Simple yet complex. I didn’t have the pleasure of trying it with anchovies, I am sure they’d add to it nicely… I look forward to playing around with this as a base, throwing in some summer veg perhaps. I bet roasted peppers would be great too…

  14. says

    Your blog and photographs are amazing!
    This recipe sounds too good to be true, will give it a shot.
    Out of curiosity, do you think I’d be able to get away with canned stewed tomatoes instead of canned whole ones? Or will that annihilate the recipe?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *