Bottarga: what is it and how do you eat it?
Bottarga is often called gold of the Mediterranean and considered a delicacy the world over. Just a few slices or a few pinches give your dish an incredible aroma and taste and completely transform your meal. The roe sac of a fish - most commonly grey mullet - is salted, massaged to expel air pockets, then pressed and dried. Bottarga is wonderful to eat with vegetables, grated over almost any starch or grain, or just on its own, sliced paper thin and seasoned with a little salt or soy sauce, a squeeze of lemon, and a slick of flavorful oil.
Stash it in the fridge and pull it out for special occasions; treat it like the luxury it is! While it may be pricey, you can use bottarga with any number of different foods. Like soy sauce, or fish sauce, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, it's an easy and quick way to add a savory richness to dishes, whether it's pasta or eggs, and it never feels not special, and it's more affordable than it seems.
Aside from the way it tastes, the best part of bottarga is that it effectively keeps indefinitely. Even after you open up the packaging, peel back the pellicle, and grate some over pasta, the remainder will keep, tightly wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, for months and months.
It is excellent grated over pasta, particularly in simpler preparations. It is a wonderful accent for the humble boiled egg, whether hard- or soft-boiled and it is quite tasty with a plain bowl of steamed white rice. You can gently warm it, but avoid cooking bottarga.
SPAGHETTI CON LA BOTTARGA
6-8 oz spaghetti (or type of long pasta that is relatively thin)
2 large garlic cloves
1 tbsp bottarga (dried mullet or tuna roe)
1 pinch peperoncino (chili flakes)
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Start with boiling the water for pasta. Cook spaghetti or your preferred type of long pasta according to directions on the package.
As your pasta is cooking, chop parsley and crush garlic cloves with a flat knife so it gives the most of its aroma and flavor when cooked.
Place a large skillet pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic cloves, peperoncino flakes and ½ of all parsley (save the other half of parsley to add at the last minute so it keeps its bright green color and vivid flavor). Stir for a few minutes or until garlic is lightly brown. At that point you can remove garlic from the pan completely or leave it in there if you don’t mind having it in your plate.
Reduce the heat to low. Add ⅓ of bottarga. Stir and simmer for another few minutes adding some more extra virgin olive oil if needed.
Drain pasta setting some cooking liquid aside.
Toss pasta into the skillet pan, add remaining bottarga, some cooking liquid if needed.
Toss in the pan for 30-60 seconds, add remaining parsley.
Serve immediately, topping individual plate with a pinch or two of bottarga.