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Bottarga

Bottarga is the roe pouch of either the mullet fish or tuna, that has been cured in salt and air dried.

Sounds tasty doesn’t it?

Sounds like the perfect mix of seafood and charcuterie to me!

Bottarga is a specialty of the island of Sardinia, off the coast of Italy. Some consider it to be a poor mans caviar, which I think is a wholly inaccurate assessment of one of the more unique seafood ingredients out there. It’s flavor is really nothing like caviar – it is far richer, exceedingly complex, and very very comforting. Some might liken its taste to a very good salted anchovy, but even that misses the mark (but is much closer than caviar).

It is typically sold in blocks – that is how it is cured after all. These are cased in wax to help preserve freshness. It is one ingredient I have always wanted to try, but frankly the price of it put me off a bit. A block normally retails from about $60 to $100, depending on the make. The stuff can last, about 6 months in the fridge apparently, but even still that is a heck of a lot of bottarga parties to use it all up, especially since a little goes a long way.

To make things worse, I don’t know of any Seattle restaurants serving it, so I couldn’t go get a taste anywhere. (Any readers that want to correct me on this, and point out places that have bottarga on their menu’s – go for it!)

So alas, no bottarga for me. Or so I thought.

I have just started helping a friend of mine out, Scott, who runs the fantastic meat curing blog http://sausagedebauchery.blogspot.com

He emailed me recently mentioning that he was setting up an online store, selling imported Italian foods. We got talking, and I have ended up taking some product shots for him, for the new store. In return? I get to keep whatever he sends me.

So – my first question to him “do you have salted small oily fish?” (which is pretty much my first question to anyone actually).

YES

question two: “do you have bottarga?”

YES

question three: “do you have really bloody good salted capers, not the stuff in brine?

YES, two kinds from two different areas in Italy actually

So, as you can see from the conversation above, Scott could quite easily become my new best friend…

This post is more than just the story of how I managed to score some great bottarga for free however. Scott’s product is somewhat different to what I have seen other places.

This isn’t a honking slab that sells for $80. He has sourced a company that sells high quality bottarga, in small vacuum sealed pouches – which is pre-grated.

Now, my first question when I heard this was “er, this isn’t going to be like pre-grated Parmesan is it, cos we all know that stuff is nasty“.

NO, this is a really high quality product, that get vac sealed as soon as it is grated“. Was the reply. “I think you are going to really like it

He was right, I do really like it. I will go as far to say that I am addicted to it. Pasta, salads, you name it – I have put some on it. Anything you want that salty fishy taste to, bingo. Bottarga is your product.

The best thing about this little bag of joy is the price to be honest (not my price – free ninety nine), but the price at which you can buy it from him – $10 for a decent amount of the stuff – certainly enough for a good few very large bottarga parties.

As most readers of my humble little blog will know, I like clean simple food. Don’t give me a zillion ingredients, just a few really good choice ones. I like layered flavors that are complex, bright and distinctive, not muddy and flat. This is especially true when I am trying out a new ingredient for the first time.

Enter the worlds most simple, yet addictive pasta. Just pasta, bottarga, garlic, parsley and good olive oil. The bottarga makes this so darn complex that I could eat this every day for a week and not get bored of it.

This is quite possibly the shortest recipe I have written on my blog, and one of the tastiest:

Bottarga Pasta Recipe

2 good handfuls of pasta – spaghetti works great here

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

1 handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

bottarga to taste – about 2 tablespoons

really good olive oil – about 5 tablespoons

Cook your pasta according to packet directions – or make your own and cook it to your likeness. Personally I like to still have a solid bite to mine.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of bottarga and the garlic with a couple of olive oil. You can warm this over a low flame if you want, to retard the garlic taste a bit.

Drain the pasta when done. Tip into the oil/bottarga bowl. Toss to combine. Add in the parsley, pinches at a time, until everything is nicely coated with green flecks. Add more bottarga to taste.

Divide between two bowls, sprinkle a little more bottarga over the top, and a little more oil and parsley if needed.

Serve straight away.

If you are interested in the products Scott has to offer, including this bottarga – check out: http://www.sausagedebauchery.com/ his online store.


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20 Responses to “Bottarga”

  1. Can Scott be my best friend too? Really, please?? I’ve been eyeing the bottarga at the Italian shop by my house for months. Seriously, just staring at it through the window, before walking away with my head down in defeat. I just can’t justify the $80 price tag. What I would do for just one taste of your pasta…

    Capers, salted anchovies and reasonably priced bottarga. I feel like I found heaven. And it’s Ash Wednesday. Coincidence?

  2. Phoo-D says:

    Oh this is great! I just read about bottarga over at The Paupered Chef, but didn’t know of any online sources with reasonable prices. I can’t wait to give this a try!

  3. Like you, I have always wanted to try bottarga, but was put off by the price. Judy Rogers talks about it a lot in her Zuni Café Cookbook, which is one of my favorites. Thanks for the heads up on the more affordable source.

  4. dan says:

    so what’s the deal with the garlic? you mince it and keep it for another dish, just in case you don’t like the botarga…? just kiddin’, but you forgot to put it in the recipe; anyway, do you add it raw? doesn’t it owerpower the botarga?

  5. mattwright says:

    Allison – he has some great products!
    Phoo-D – I am interested now in trying a whole piece, and fresh grating, to see if there is a difference
    Noelle – Thanks!
    Dan – recipe updated! I just used raw, and a small clove – it worked fine, since the bottarga is pretty strong. You could heat it gently to knock it back a bit for sure though.

  6. L says:

    oo it sounds a lot like mentaiko (marinated pollock roe) and karasumi (salted mullet roe) in Japanese cuisine. Have you ever tried either? I love eating mentaiko pasta in Japan. Now to get my hands on bottarga…

  7. nina says:

    The first time I saw botarga was on the cooking program with the 2 surfer dudes. I was as fascinated then as I am now looking at this pasta….

  8. Memoria says:

    I’ve never heard of bottarga. I must try this out. Thanks for the link!! The dish looks amazing.

  9. Gfron1 says:

    Very nice dish. I love bottarga and its definitely a condiment just waiting to explode in America.

  10. Sarka says:

    Never heard of bottarga, but it definitely sounds delicious and intriguing. I bet it must be divine with spaghetti. I love the picture of the boiling spaghetti.

  11. my spatula says:

    i LOVE this, matt. beautiful, beautiful. and i can almost taste the deliciousness through the screen. now, i have yet another reason to book that trip to sardinia.

  12. This could become my new favorite online store! I’ve been wanting to try bottarga for ages. Can’t wait to get my hands on this!

  13. dan says:

    I found two variations for pasta with bottarga, on the Accademia Italiana di Cucina website. First one is sicilian; you mix the grated botarga with the minced garlic, olive oil and a little water to make a mayonese-like paste, then you toss the pasta with it. The second, from Calabria: you finely slice the bottarga (so it wouldn’t work with the already grated variety), then you crumble it and mix with capers, salt and pepper (no garlic in this one), then toss with the pasta. I gotta get myself some of this stuff soon…

  14. hank says:

    Nice! I too am working with Scott and like his products. As for bottarga, it is made in several parts of Italy and some of the finest is actually Greek.

    Oh, and Matt? I know how to make it! I’ll tell you how and with what local fish, if you’re very nice… ;-)

    h.

  15. dan says:

    Hank, do tell how to make bottarga from local fish. I have access to an unlimited supply of free trout caviar, can you make bottarga from that?

  16. Oh, I so agree with you about cooking simply – you made one of my favorite concoctions which is a classic in Italy – but instead of hard to get bottarga, I just use an anchovy or two to get that fishy briny taste. I’m going to have to start stocking bottarga – I’m hopping on over to your friend’s site right now!

  17. shauna says:

    If you need the enticement to make this amazing pasta, let me tell you this. We shared a big pot of it with Matt and Danika last night, happy and reaching for more. Our 19-month-old ate three bowls, her face a happy smear of olive oil, bottarga and green herbs. (she even had those in her eyelashes.)

    good god. delicious.

  18. So you used bottarga! Great! I will just squirt a bit of anchovy paste on mine; to each his own. Great pic.

  19. Forgive me, it’s late. Is this the mullet or the tuna bottarga? (pls say mullet?) ;-)

  20. Christy Turner says:

    Loved the recipe, was exactly what I was searching for. I lived in the island of La Maddalena in Sardegna for three years and by far this is the dish that haunts me the most. Freshly home from a trip to Italy, I have several packages of bottarga in hand including the solid form (vacuum packed) and now thanks to your recipe I have a reason to try it. Thank you!