Can you guess what this is? No, it is not smoked chicken breast. Hint: we’ve just returned from a wonderful vacation on the Italian island of Sardinia. It is bottarga di muggine, or the salted and dried roe pouch of grey mullet (muggine in Italian, or harder in Dutch), a specialty of Sardinia. It is a delicacy with a fishy yet elegant umami flavor. It reminds me a bit of salted anchovies, but much more subtle and delicious. It can be eaten thinly sliced with olive oil or lemon juice on bread or crostini, or on pasta. The fresh variety is vastly superior to the dry grated variety in a jar. Here is how to make spaghetti with bottarga. The lemon zest is optional and should be used with restraint to prevent overpowering the bottarga. When used with restraint, the lemon zest balances out the flavors and makes the dish even more elegant.
For 2 servings
at least 50 grams (2 oz) fresh bottarga, about half of one roe pouch
150 grams (1/3 lb) spaghetti
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
grated zest of 1/4 lemon, from an untreated lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the spaghetti. Meanwhile, remove the thin layer of wax that protects the bottarga with the help of a small knife.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and add a minced clove of garlic. Stir over low heat to infuse the oil with garlic, but make sure the garlic stays white or very lightly golden. Browned garlic would ruin the delicate flavor of this dish.
When the water boils, add a tablespoon of salt and the spaghetti and set the timer according to the cooking time on the package for al dente.
Add some grated lemon zest to the garlic, if using. Do not use too much.
Grate about 50 grams of bottarga (or more, be generous).
When the spaghetti is almost cooked, scoop out a few tablespoons of the cooking water…
…and add to the frying pan with the garlic.
When the timer beeps, drain the spaghetti and add to the frying pan. Add the bottarga as well (you could also grate the bottarga directly onto the spaghetti).
Turn off the heat and toss the spaghetti until it is coated with the mixture of bottarga, olive oil, and cooking water. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may wish to add more salt, bottarga, or lemon zest.
Serve at once on preheated plates, sprinkled with some more freshly grated bottarga.
An obvious choice is a Vermentino from Sardinia, but many other dry white wines will work. There are two levels of Vermentino from Sardinia: Vermentino di Sardegna DOC and Vermentino di Gallura DOCG. The latter is from the best area and I have not tasted a bad one yet.
Panang is a Thai curry made with meat and red curry paste enriched with peanuts, cumin, and coriander. It does not contain vegetables, except that it is garnished with chiffonaded kaffir lime leaves and thinly sliced red chilli peppers. This is a Panang Curry with pork belly cooked sous-vide. The result was great: the pork belly was very tender and juicy, and the long cooking time allowed the curry flavor to penetrate into the meat.
8 thoughts on “Spaghetti con la Bottarga”
Thank you for recipe…
The sea in your plate
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In Australia I have been able to buy and eat this since childhood . . . and have loved it to bits eating it more-or-less with bread as caviar. Have just talked to Mr Google and there are at least a dozen on-line firms which supply the mullet [usually] roe delicacy, one ad photo looking more perfect than the next: oh well, the prices have become somewhat astronomical [$A29 a pair usually], but . . . it will be ordered tomorrow and tried with your utterly simple pasta dish . . . thanks for a reminder and can’t wait to reacquaint myself with one of the most sublime flavours in my experience: umami indeed 🙂 !
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That is less than double of what I paid in Sardinia, so not too bad 🙂
I visited Sicily for the first time this summer and loved the food there so much. The one thing that stood out over everything else was a plate of pasta that we had similar to the one you make here. Simplicity itself. The difference was this was made with bottarga di tonno from local waters, and the lemons there were without doubt the best I have ever tasted.
We just had to bring some of these ingredients back with us to Hong Kong so stopped off at the Fratelli Burgio salumeria in Ortigia where we went on a small spending spree. Having shown interest in his bottarga, the owner proceeded to open up his freshest batch (which he salted himself) and offered us a taster. It was exactly as you described, several slices of wonderful thin-sliced bottarga served on crostini with olive oil and lemon, una meraviglia.
My wife made this dish at home last week with some of the fresh bottarga and lemons we brought back, but she made the spaghetti risottati for the last three minutes of the cooking time which made it even better.
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I’ve just come back from Sicily and I had a wonderful spaghetti alla bottarga in Bar Turrisi in Castelmola. I tried to recreate it at home using your recipe, but unfortunately I bought only dried grated bottarga di tonno in a jar. I did shopping on my last day there and I didn’t find a whole one… or I didn’t know where to look! 😉
I added about a half of the suggested amount (25g, that was a half of the jar) and yet it was already overpowered with umami. Moreover, bottarga, oil and pasta water didn’t create an unified emulsion. Oil and pasta water created a coating like in a spaghetti aglio e olio, but bottarga remained dry. Perhaps next time I should create a paste of bottarga and a Tbsp of oil and let it sit for a while? What do you think?
I also tried the dried stuff and did not like it. The flavor and texture are very different from fresh.
I think it may work better if you soak the dried stuff in water rather than oil. It is after all the water that was removed from it by drying.