Spaghetti alla Bottarga

If food were currency, Bottarga would be as good as gold. Bottarga in Italian, Boutargue in French or Karasumi in Japanese, 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. When shopping for bottarga look for the gold color kind, it’s the best quality.

A specialty of Sardinia and popular all over Italy, the Mediterranean and Japan, bottarga is the weapon of choice for chefs who want to pack a maximum of briny flavor into an innocent plate of pasta. 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. 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. Bottarga is imported from Italy and Japan and can be expensive – around $15 an ounce, but it has a shelf life of over 6 months in the fridge as long as the wax seal is not broken, use it within a week after the seal is broken.

This is one of the easiest and tastiest pasta that I know. Start by heating some good olive oil, garlic and chili flakes in a pan. Add some grated bottarga until it sizzles and turn off the heat. Toss the pasta and finish with parsley, lemon zest and some more grated bottarga. Easy!

  • Spaghetti alla Bottarga

  • Serves 4
    • Spaghetti alla Bottarga:
    • 1 lb spaghetti
    • 5 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
    • 1 teaspoon (or to taste) chili flakes
    • 3 to 4 ounces bottarga, grated on a microplane
    • 1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped
    • grated zest of 1 lemon
    • Spaghetti alla Bottarga:
    • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti al dente (Don’t salt the pasta water as much as you normally would. Bottarga is salty.)
    • Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the olive oil, add the sliced garlic and the chili flakes. When the garlic starts getting golden add half of the grated bottarga and let it sizzle in the olive oil. Turn off the heat immediately.
    • Drain and add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss with the parsley. Divide the pasta among 4 plates and top with the remaining bottarga and lemon zest. Serve right away.
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  • Erin

    I have never heard of Bottarga before, but this looks fantastic!

  • style fare

    This is one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes – I usually enjoy it the Japanese way, with lots of torn nori on top. Thanks for sharing a lovely Bottarga version, I’m all over this one! :)

  • mayssam

    It’s one of my absolute favourite things! In Lebanon, we top the sliced bottarga (battrakh) with really thin slices of raw garlic, drizzle with olive oil and eat it on pita bread

  • Anonymous

    Where are some good reliable sources for bottarga, online?

  • Vanisha Sritharan

    How interesting! I’ve never heard of Bottarga before but looks and sounds delicious!

  • Clairevernon

    Wow.  Can’t believe I’ve never heard of this before, sounds amazing.  Going to try and source some in London.  Italian deli the best bet? c

  • simplesoulfood

    actually a jewish delicatessen might be your best bet…. in New York they sell it at Russ and Daughters. Italian delis don’t have it for some reason…

  • simplesoulfood
    this is considered the best bottarga we can get in cagliari. In any case, the web page has pictures that give you an idea of what to look for. I wouldn’t buy a bottle of grated bottarga through the mail though. here we can buy it freshly and it still works.

  • Adelina

    I don’t think I am familiar with bottarga. Need to get some to taste. So simple and yet so fancy 😉

  • Anonymous

    Some Italian markets do otherwise try a Japanese one, it’s sold as Karasumi. I didn’t know Russ & Daughters had it. Good to know. 

  • Anonymous

    Great! Thanks for sharing that website. 

  • Anonymous

    Yum! Sounds awesome! :) 

  • Katherine Martinelli

    What a fab recipe! I’ve been seeing this dish pop up all over the place and now I am seriously craving some :-)

  • Pierre

    It’s like the caviar of Italy. Sadly I can’t get it anywhere in NZ. Served just the way to shine bottarga, nice job!


    wow! looks amazing. but where do i find it in boston??

  • Lucia

    Hi! You might like to know that Lina Stores (18 Brewer Street, Soho) is where I get my bottarga :)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    I heard they sell it at Salumeria Italiana in Boston. 

  • Dalya

    Is it similar to the Turkish ‘Abudaracho’ which everybody jokingly compares to gold because it became so expensive in recent years??? 

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard that name so I think we’re talking about the same thing.  There are different qualities of bottarga and that’s why the price varies so greatly. It’s was once called “a poor’s man caviar”, but it seems that times have changed. 

  • Lea Driscoll

    Congratulations on having one of the most sophisticated websites Ive come across in a few time!

  • Richard

    best spaghetti dish ever