Gemelli (or Spaghetti) Alla Bottarga

If food were currency, Bottarga would be as good as gold.

Bottarga di muggine or boutargue in French, is the roe sac of grey mullet that has been salted, dried, pressed and dipped in beewax for preservation. It ends up looking like a flat-sided wax sausage. I’m sure your innate kitchen wisdom has taught you to beware of the power of the mighty sausage.

A specialty of Sardinia and popular all over Italy and the Mediterranean, bottarga is the weapon of choice for chefs who want to pack a maximum of briny flavor into… an innocent plate of pasta for example. You can think of it as the oceanic equivalent of really good parmesan with a rich salty/buttery taste and a luxurious mouth-feel. Simply put.. it’s good, it’s really good. After taking the picture, i experienced what i thought was broccoli epiphany by simply dipping a floret drizzled with olive oil into the grated gold. I shouldn’t have. I’m still recovering and i’m going to my ‘bottarga anonymous’ meeting after i’m done with this post. But it’s a versatile ingredient that will take many casual foods for a joy ride – I have seen it shaved or grated over boiled potatoes, beans and even scrambled eggs.

The process of making Bottarga goes back to ancient Egypt and has been kept alive by Sardinian fishermen over centuries, there’s also a Japanese equivalent called Karasumi. Bottarga is imported from Italy and is expensive – around $10 an ounce, but it has a shelf life of over 6 months in the fridge, making it a long-lasting investment. You can buy it in Gourmet italian stores, online by clicking here, or just order the classic Spaghetti alla bottarga next time you go to a good Italian restaurant. Or better, invite me to your house, bribe me with some good wines and i’ll cook for you. You’ll be ruined before you know it but it might be worth it… Okay, i give you the recipe because i like you. Give it a try, it’s awesome.

 

Gemelli (or Spaghetti) alla Bottarga

(serves 4)

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup coarsely ground breadcrumbs (i use Panko)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound gemelli pasta or spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons grated bottarga, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    __________

 

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat until butter foams. Add breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta, and cook until al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic. Cook 2 minutes until the garlic turns golden on the edges. Transfer pasta directly from boiling water to skillet. Toss to coat. Add 2 tablespoons grated bottarga, the parsley, and half the breadcrumbs, and toss. Transfer to a platter. Season with salt.
  4. Sprinkle pasta with remaining breadcrumbs. Grate a generous amount of bottarga on top. Serve.
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  • Heather

    First! Bottargo, eh? Oooh, that’s like dried mentaiko, rite? I had mentaiko in Tokyo and it freaked me out. Using it as a seasoning seems like a better idea than just straight chowing on an egg sac.

  • AzAzura

    I ve never used a bottarga and i am all thrilled and excited to use them..just because you explained the flavours well.As usual Zenchef .. nice picture.

  • acey

    hi, ZENCHEF! i arrived here from dhanggit’s blog. :) that spag looks good!!!!

  • glamah16

    I first heard of this at a pizza place in D.C. I didnt try it. Well now you got my curiosity up. I love briney flavors.

  • Manggy

    “Or better, invite me to your house, bribe me with some good wines and i’ll cook for you. You’ll be ruined before you know it but it might be worth it… “
    Thanks for the warning, man! Haha!

    I’ve never heard of bottarga or karasumi. I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open for it.. (but I’m not counting on encountering it here :/ )

  • Emiline

    I feel like I have a lot of knowledge about food, because I read a lotof cookbooks and magazines. But then you bring up something like bottarga, and I realize I have a lot to learn.
    I’ve never heard of bottarga.

  • Dhanggit

    i havent tried bottarga yet, but this post convinced me to try them :-) i bet those spaghetti taste absolutely delicious :-)

  • chase

    I’ve never used a bottarga let alone know that it existed hahaha. But I will find one once I am back home in Europe and will try that lovely recipe of yours

  • Tavolini

    I’ve never heard of bottarga, but am very intrigued–I loved your description of it. I’ll keep an eye out for it!

  • Brilynn

    How are there so many edible things that I’ve never even heard of before? I feel so deprived…

    And wanna know a secret? I know less than squak about computer programming, blogger templates are as knowledgeable as I get, ie- point and click. But if you want to believe that I’m all knowing in the land of computer programming then we can certainly trade my impressive skills for some of your gemelli alla bottarga…

  • La Belette Rouge

    It is comforting to know that I am not the only one who has never heard of Bottargo.

    Your post made me think of a Japanese/Italian restaurant that I used to go to in L.A. that had really unusual ingredients. I have never had anything like it before or since–I am Jonesing for Japanese/Italian food.

  • Alejandra

    Bottarga makes me shiver…

    We used it in a few dishes when I was in school, and I loved it so much that my roommate (and classmate) stole a little block for me (we were accomplished thieves although I just used to refer to it as “extra credit assignments”). I used to make a sauce using Panna di Cucina and serve it over bucatini with bottarga shaved over it. Oh man…now my mouth is watering for the feel of the creamy, shivery sauce on the bouncy bucatini…

  • Cindy. Lo.

    You know, I just stuffed myself with Korean BBQ buffet 2 hours ago,
    Somehow after reading this post, I’m hungry again..

  • Cakespy

    Bottargo–I had never heard of it! But I am so glad I know of it now, it sounds just like you say, like gold! I can’t wait to give it a try, I just found a place in Seattle that has it!

  • Susan from Food Blogga

    I feel so much smarter after having read this post. Now I’d like to feel fuller with a bowl of that pasta. You think it counts as breakfast food?

  • Tartelette

    I had years ago but did not forget about the particular taste. I love that you grated it and used it more as a seasoning. Brilliant idea!

  • Karine

    Seems delicious!

    ^^

  • Ann

    Okay, you’re invited! We’ve got some lovely wines to share. You bring the Bottarga and we’ll supply everything else.

  • daphne

    the use of panko is interesting.. is it common? The dish usually uses fresh breadcrumbs right? bet the panko gives it a lovely texture though.

  • foodhuntress79

    It is the what of the grey mullet? Baby sac? Nope, haven’t heard, seen, tasted the precious… I’ll take note :)

  • CookiePie

    YUM – I’ll be right over! Should I bring red or white?

  • tigerfish

    Thanks. This is new to me…the Bottargo, I mean. :)

  • Deborah

    I have never had bottarga before, but it sounds amazing. I’ll have to check out the online link, because there are no French specialty stores close by!

  • Jessie Cacciola

    this looks amazing, and probably tastes even better…can’t wait to try it out. I’d love to feature it as my “daily dish” on my art/food/lifestyle tomorrow (and link back to you of course)…hope that’s alright! Thanks for the recipe!
    - Jessie -

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