Let me start this post by clarifying one thing: I’d been in the mood to make something kinda weird for a couple weeks before reading this. Then a few days ago my husband quips, ‘We’re not eating enough fish—make something fishy!’ So when I saw Sardinian bottarga di muggine, or cured mullet roe, this past Friday at the grocery store, I thought, Why not? It’s as good a time as any to find out what bottarga is all about. It certainly met the ‘weird’ and ‘fishy’ pre-reqs. Turns out it meets all kinds of other requisite ‘food-asshole’ rules, too.
Bottarga is expensive. The kind I picked up was on sale for €69 a kilo (about €4.80 for 70 grams), marked down from €100 a kilo. When I told my mother-in-law I’d bought some bottarga, she said, ‘Oh? How does one use it?’ Uh oh, I thought. If a Tuscan housewife and life-long cook has never used bottarga, it must be fairly obscure. What else? Right: Authentic, local, disgusting. Bottarga is all these, too! Though to be fair, it’s only disgusting if you think about what it is. Otherwise, it’s really tasty. Here are two pasta dishes with bottarga sauces.
Linguine with tomato, parsley & bottarga
350 grams (about ¾ of a pound) linguine or spaghetti
3 to 4 tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 garlic clove
70 grams (about 2 &½ ounces) of finely sliced bottarga, plus a little more for garnishing
Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta, and a smaller one for the tomato. Slice the bottarga with a very sharp knife into small medallion-like pieces. Score the tomatoes and boil them for 5 minutes, drain and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and chop up the tomato into a kind of pulp. Then strain most of the liquid from the pulp and set aside. Chop most of the parsley and the garlic medium-fine. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and parsley and cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes on low heat. Add the bottarga slices and simmer for another 3 or 4 minutes. Cook the linguine al dente, drain and toss with the sauce, garnish with the rest of the parsley and grate some bottarga on top.
Seafood ravioli in bottarga and butter sauce (I used mezzelune allo scorfano, or half-moon shaped ravioli stuffed with red scorpion fish, but any seafood-stuffed pasta will work.)
500 grams (about 1 pound) of seafood ravioli
4 tablespoons butter
60-70 grams bottarga
Boil the water. Slice the bottarga as above. Melt the butter in a pan and add the bottarga, gently nudging and pressing the pieces to melt them some. Cook the ravioli and strain. Add to the bottarga sauce and toss gently. Grate some bottarga over the ravioli, and top with fresh ground black pepper. Remember to feel sufficiently self-righteous as you serve bottarga to your (hopefully) intimidated guests.