Impress your dinner guests at your next Mediterranean themed event by serving them bottarga. To those that know, it is both a delicacy and is renown as the poor man’s caviar. Bottarga is pressed dried eggs of either a tuna or grey mullet. The roe sack is removed from the fish, salted and sun-dried for a couple of days, pressed, hung, and dried. To the uninitiated, this may not sound all too appetizing. But I assure you, there is a reason this humble, born out of necessity ingredient is a common household ingredient among Italian fishermen yet can go for real dollars when you purchase at an high-end restaurant.
The bottarga flavor is an incredible combination of maritime treasures, salty fishiness, captivating umami, and creamy silkiness. Needless to say, it is one unique ingredient that tastes like none other. When paired intelligently with acid, butter, or olive oil, it can create a dish that will make you close your eyes and feel as if you’re next to the deep, gorgeous blue Mediterranean sea without a care in the world.
Typically, bottarga is served simply. One preparation is grated bottarga in a pasta with olive oil and garlic. Another is sliced bottarga on a crostini with butter. This recipe is one that is less traditional, but a compromise. This recipe highlights the flavors and textures of the bottarga as it melts into the tomato sauce, yet aspects of strong oceanic taste are dampened a tad. This makes the dish more accommodative to a larger audience. Luckily, this dish is easy to make and again, an ideal way to showcase your Mediterranean knowledge with a spaghetti packed with the unique, orange-colored bottarga, in a friendly manner.
Ingredients (serves 8-12 people):
- 2 lbs of spaghetti
- 1 cup of grated bottarga
- 8 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- 4 cups of simple tomato sauce
- 1 pinch of dried red pepper flakes
- 2 handfuls of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup of scallions, sliced
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon, butter
- Olive oil
Have your bottarga all ready to go, as it does take some time to grate the dried bottarga using a cheese grater.
Place olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, the red pepper flakes, and have it gently cook and fragrant the olive oil. After a couple of minutes, pour in the white wine. Incorporate 1 handful of the parsley at this stage into the white wine. Allow the white wine to reduce by more than half. This will take 10 minutes.
Pour in your simple tomato sauce. It will soak in the flavors of the white wine, parsley, garlic and red pepper flakes. At this point, incorporate 1/4 cup of the bottarga into the sauce. It will gorgeously melt into and flavor the tomato sauce. Allow the flavors to marry one another over medium low heat for 15 minutes. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add lots of salt, dash of olive oil, and the spaghetti. Cook the spaghetti to al-dente.
Using a pair of tongs, transfer the al-dente spaghetti directly to the tomato sauce. No straining allowed. We also want some of the pasta water to migrate over and further bind the sauce together. Then stir in the remaining bottarga, chives, butter, dash of olive oil, and parmesan cheese. Gently, yet vigorously toss the spaghetti in the bottarga tomato sauce.
Serve this bottarga pasta immediately and allow your family and friends to soak in the uniquely wonderful and profound flavors of the bottarga, a Mediterranean treat and delicacy.