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
- 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
- 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.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta, and cook until al dente.
- 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.
- Sprinkle pasta with remaining breadcrumbs. Grate a generous amount of bottarga on top. Serve.