“Karma Chameleon” Bucatini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil – Red, Gold, and Green

At the risk of being sued by Boy George (as opposed to a-wannabe-lawyer-who-liked-to-bathe-in-apricot-Jell-o), I decided to call this treatment of bucatini with cherry tomatoes “Karma Chameleon” for obvious reasons.  The pure red cherry tomatoes with the vibrant “sungold” cherry tomatoes (from our deck-top garden) and fresh basil (right off the deck, too) made me think of the lyrics:

Loving would be easy if your colours were like my dream
Red, gold, and green, red, gold, and green.

Huh? What exactly does that mean?

This is from an era of many pop songs with memorable refrains but not much meaning:  the 1980s, of course.  The song was very catchy but did not really have the “deeper” meaning indicated by the references to “karma” and the changeability of the chameleon. There is good alliteration with “karma chameleon” together, while “red, gold, and green” make a nice vivid trio of colours.  But does the song really say anything, other than just being a fun tune?

Like the song, bucatini is a fun pasta. However, it is not always easy to find bucatini in your grocer’s shelves, nestled among its more popular cousins, spaghetti and linguine (do not even try to find “buca-what?” on a small island like this one).  Bucatini is like a drinking straw, with a hollow centre, a kind of tubular spaghetti, which provides, a nice al dente contrast to the warmed cherry tomatoes, and good textural counterpoint to the light olive oil-butter sauce.

My inspiration for combining bucatini with cherry tomatoes comes from a casual dinner a few years back, hosted by friend and fellow island blogger, Lynn, of Real Food from a Small Island.  Lynn’s sauce was delicious yet somewhat different from this recipe.

I like the classic Italian base of garlic-olive-oil-black-pepper-and-Parmigiano-Reggiano.  This base also can include parsley, bread crumbs, red chili flakes, anchovies, lemon juice, capers, or many other ingredients, depending on the region. time of day, and the chef.  I posted about a combination that I did a few months back, Umami Linguine.  A bit of butter, I find, in a sauce like this helps improve with the mouth feel and adds a bit of richness to the sauce without becoming heavy.

For the recipe…

This version can feature red cherry tomatoes exclusively, and one even could forgo the basil and still have a great dish.  However, the yellow tomatoes add a mellow sweetness to their more tomato-y and slightly acidic red siblings, and the basil provides an herbal richness…and the colours then are like your dream, right?

The closest to a chameleon I could find was this tiny green frog on our deck.

Whether Boy George likes bucatini or cherry tomatoes may be as much of a mystery as the meaning of the lyrics, but the red-gold-and-green palette of the dish certainly makes for a visual feast – and a perfect, fast, light summer dinner.

“Karma Chameleon” Bucatini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil, kind of my own invention, based on classic Italian dishes

Serves one (but you can multiply just as many times as you like for bigger numbers, all the way to infinity, if you are Karma Chameleon)


  • 2 ounces, or more (or less) bucatini
  • 1 ounce olive oil
    1 ounce butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely
    ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ½ cup of red and yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ounce or more of Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste

    1. Boil water for pasta.
    2. Add a tablespoon or so of salt when boiling rapidly.
    3. Place linguine in water and follow directions for cooking time – mine called for  seven minutes – until al dente (slightly less cooked is better).
    4. While pasta is boiling, sauté the garlic in olive oil and butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, watching to prevent burning or excessive browning.
    5. When garlic has become golden, add tomatoes and chili flakes to pan.
    6. Grind black pepper over the pan, to taste.
    7. Take pasta from pot with tongs, so that there is some pasta-water to help loosen the sauce and add the basil, just to wilt.
    8. Add about one-half ounce of Parmigiano to sauce (and additional pasta-water, if needed).
    9. Plate the pasta, adding the remaining Parmigiano.
    10. Add more black pepper and salt, if desired.


    12 responses to ““Karma Chameleon” Bucatini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil – Red, Gold, and Green

    1. You have created one of my top favorites fast foods. Who needs drive-thru? Some pasta, garden grown tomatoes… yep, you hit all the good flavor notes. Bucatini pasta is fun to eat, too! Thanks, by the way…that song is now stuck in my head!

    2. Bucatini means “little holes” which is, of course, fitting for the shape of this pasta and also for your argument that eighties music is meaningless – because your argument is full of “bucatini” – to wit,

      “Everybody’s working for the weekend
      Everybody wants a little romance
      Everybody’s goin’ off the deep end
      Everybody needs a second chance, oh” (Loverboy, 1981) or:

      “My baby takes the morning train, he works from nine till five and then
      He takes another home again to find me waitin’ for him” (Sheena Easton, 1980) or finally,

      “Well I love a rainy night
      I love a rainy night
      I love to hear the thunder
      Watch the lightning
      When it lights up the sky
      You know it makes me feel good” (Eddie Rabbit, 1981)


      • Yes, L, those are all from the cusp of the decade and are much more profound than what followed just a few years hence:

        “I’m never gonna dance again
        guilty feet have got no rhythm”
        (thank you, George Michael, for explaining the difference between innocent and guilty feet), or

        “No, my first name ain’t ‘baby’. It’s ‘Janet’.
        ‘Miss Jackson’, if you’re nasty.”
        (this, of course, begs the question of what her kooky family called her…I bet they used all three), or

        “War, war is stupid.
        And people are stupid.”
        (Not to pick on George O’Dowd, again, but tell us something we don’t know).

        It’s just so hard to isolate the most inane lyrics by decade! Any thoughts out there?

    3. I just fell into your blog and I must say, it is delightful. It is interesting to check out the photos and the memories as well as the recipes. I love this particular one.

      I made Ricotta pancakes tonight so I did laugh when I read your commentary on cottage cheese pancakes. I used to make them with cottage cheese, also.

    4. Thank you very much, Chaya. I do appreciate your kind words!

      I checked out your recipes and see you have been doing quite a bit of diverse cooking.

      Do stay in touch,


    5. So we have this Italian friend who told us that bucatini is the pasta you serve to guests you don’t want to come back, because the hollow centre makes the pasta impossible to slurp, thus make it harder to eat and taking a longer time to do so. Of course you can’t not be hospitable, so you serve them food they can’t eat instead, subtly giving them the message to get their ass out of your home. Funny.

      Having said that, I LOVE bucatini. It’s one of my favourite shapes, and I’m not sure why, maybe because I love how it’s hollow, maybe because I like biting it in half length-ways and running my tongue over the ridge as I’m eating it because it feels funny… that’s maybe a little too sensual for 8.21am. I guess I’m just weird. I love this pasta dish – it’s incredibly simple but all of the flavours and textures will just work together.

      Oh, our Italian friend also told us that adding a knob of butter to your pasta when it’s finished cooking will result in a smoother, creamier, tastier pasta, and really finishes the dish off – I never do without. That could also explain why I’m a massive fatty.

      Jax x

      • Yes, Jax, I agree about the butter as a finish. It doesn’t have to be too much, however, and it’s meat-free, so live it up! I love the story about the bucatini but wonder if it’s true. Thanks, Dan

    6. Dan, these photos are gorgeous. You have a great eye! It doesn’t hurt that summer produce is top-notch when it comes to beauty, but wow — that light! The plating of the pasta! And the sprinkling of cheese! It’s 10 a.m. here, and I’m craving this dish now.

      • Maddie, thanks so very much for your encouraging words! I had my camera on over-exposure of late, so now that it’s been rectified, I think the photos are getting better. But 10 am isn’t too too early for pasta….Dan

    7. Darn it…now I have Karma Chameleon playing in my head on repeat! I loved Boy George in the 80’s! Even tried to buy some hats that looked like his. I have been planning to make homemade pizza today since I also have an abundance of home grown tomatoes…and think I will now add your Bucatini pasta dish to the fare. I am headed to the nice Italian store down the street soon and hoping they have it. I am anxious to try it!

      • Thanks, Geni. I think that this song is one of those “ear-worms” that you can’t get rid of.

        But the pasta is just as memorable, I think! Let me know what you think, if you find the bucatini….


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