Bottarga is oceanic flavored mouth dynamite crystals! Bottarga goes by two ring names. It is the poor man’s caviar and also the ‘white’ caviar. This is a must enjoy ingredient for any gourmand.
Bottarga is the pressed, then salted and dried female roe of a fish. Typically, it is the roe of the grey mullet, but can also be tuna and swordfish roe. If this sounds unappetizing, then you need to check yourself. Quite simply, this is what flavor is all about – unique, addictive, ambiguous, and prized. Popular in the Mediterranean, it is one of those mind blowing items everyone must try once, and most likely fall head over heels for.
Bottarga, called botargo in French, makes for an excellent pasta sauce. That is how they do it in Sicily and Sardinia. Less is more in Italian cooking. The best way to enjoy bottarga is to embody that mantra. Sautee the bottarga in olive oil and toss with fresh spaghetti. This recipe is my variation on this tried and true classic, adding a bit of spice, garlic and richness for an amazingly seafood tasting pasta plate that will definitely turn heads and incite conversation.
Bottarga, dried food currency
Like a hard Italian cheese, the bottarga has a dense structure and engineering perfectly to be grated on a cheese grater. Once grated, it takes on an even more fun texture, ala pop rocks that initially burst in your mouth but then melt into a creamy, ocean-flavored liquid. The bottarga is covered in a beeswax and look like flat, long red sausages.
Ok great, thanks, so what does it taste like? It is difficult to pin down the specific tastes. This does not taste like beach chicken, that’s for sure. Like a wine, it is complex and comes with multitudes of layers. It has a rich, yet not overpowering, oceanic saltiness to it. With that, a hint of brine wafts onto the palate. If you’ve ever had dried anchovies, this flavor starts to build. Slightly fishy, slightly unctuous, yet totally lush with marine umami.
And as I already mentioned, bottarga’s texture in grated form is a circus of pop rocks and melted butter. This compliments the chewy pasta noodles in this recipe and creates a playground of textures. To spruce it up, I add some garlic, red pepper flakes and butter to introduce more flavor and richness to an already terrific dish.
We’ll have some more bottarga recipes up shortly. Sliced bottarga makes for a great appetizer salad, and bottarga is remarkable on poached eggs (think flatbread time).
Recipe for modern Bottarga alla spaghetii
- 1 lb of spaghetti, freshly made preferably
- 1.5 cups of grated bottarga (buy online)
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Handful of flat Italian parsley, chopped
- Couple knobs of butter
- Olive oil
This is a rapid fire plate. Easy to make, quick, interesting and delicious. I am a bit bias for bottarga.
First prepare the bottarga by grating it as if it was a block of parmesan cheese. Have a large pot of watering getting up to a boil. Prepare the pasta sauce by sauteing the garlic and red pepper flakes in a generous pour of olive oil over medium heat. As the garlic exudes its flavors into the slightly spicy oil and starts to soften, pour in your bottarga. Keep the heat medium or lower, as we do not want the bottarga to burn.
Once the water reaches a boil, season it heavily with salt and pour in your pasta. When your pasta is al dente, use a pair of tongs and dump the pasta directly into the bottarga pan. Toss the pasta with the bottarga. I then cheat and add a couple knobs of butter along with the parsley. Make sure everything is all incorporated. Add more grated bottarga if the dish needs more.
Serve the bottarga spaghetti immediately with an extra drizzle of olive oil on top. No cheese, do not add cheese! And then devour this treat.