Pasta with bottarga.

Bottarga is a typical Italian ingredient, but can be found on the whole Mediterranean coast, including Greece, Spain, Morocco, France. Basically, it’s fish eggs that have been carefully removed from the female fish, salted, pressed and dried for about 6 months. There are two kinds of bottarga available in Italy: bottarga di tonno (tuna roe) which comes mainly from Sicily; and bottarga di muggine (mullet roe) that is one of Sardinia’s most prized products. I try hard not to eat tuna, because I don’t want to be part of its steady decline, so I bought bottarga di muggine the last time I was in Sardinia.

Bottarga also called the Mediterranean Caviar, and for good reason.

Like parmesan, prosciutto and soy sauce, bottarga is rich of umami, otherwise known as “the fifth taste”. Bottarga is earthy, smooth, every single fish egg crunchy and salty in a way that doesn’t make you reach for water but another spoonful.

You can have it on a bruschetta, or simply sliced and dressed with olive oil and lemon. Or, of course, on pasta. Which is how I like it. Because you know, I’m a declared pastivore.

Here’s how you can eat a plateful of pure Italian umami.


Put the oil, parsley and halved cloves on a low, low fire. It has to sizzle and infuse, not burn.
Boil the pasta. Spaghetti are the best, but linguine can be fine, too. Don’t overcook it!
Before you buy the bottarga, check the ingredients. It should only have two: roe and salt. I buy the grated one, not the whole one, because I always use it grated anyway so it’s pointless to buy it whole.
Open your bottarga. Smell it – does it smell nice? Taste it – only once, or else it’ll finish before the pasta is cooked!
When the oil and garlic and parsley have been simmering for about 6 minutes, get a ladleful of water the pasta is boiling in and blend it in.
Get a teaspoon of bottarga, take the pan off the heat and mix it in. It mustn’t cook, just soak up some of the water.
like so.
Stir in the pasta, as soon as it’s strained. It will absorb the remaining water and be coated with the bottarga sauce.
When the pasta is in the plate, sprinkle a second teaspoon of bottarga on it.

Et voila! Are you ready to eat like a roman emperor?

I sure am.

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