Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spaghetti alla Bottarga

Spaghetti alla Bottarga is a traditional Italian recipe from Sardegna, a large Italian island rich in amazing recipes and products. This dish (as well as Bottarga itself) didn't use to be known to the rest of Italy up until about 10 years back. With my mother being from Sardegna, I have grown up with this dish which still remains one of my favourite pastas. Its simplicity and natural sea flavour are unbeatable. Nowadays this has even become popular aboroad, although I am not aware of any Italian restaurants that make it in Singapore, primarily because of unavailability of Bottarga itself (I might be proven wrong. If you do know of a restaurant where this is served, please let me know).

For those who haven't come across Bottarga before, it is basically made from dried grey mullet roe. The roe is treated, dried and vacuumed. It can be eaten "fresh", sliced with bread, or dried even further and grated on pasta.
If you ever travel abroad to Italy or Europe, you might want to purchase this expensive delicacy (around $250/kg) and bring it back to make pasta. It can be preserved in the fridge for 1 or 2 years, and I would say a $50 piece will make up to 20 servings.
I generally open the vacuumed seal and keep Bottarga in the fridge for at least a few months before it's dry enough to be grated for pasta. An alternative to Bottarga is Karasumi, which is the Japanese (identical) version, original from Kyushu. You can buy it pretty much at any top Japanese department store (in Japan), but I believe it's even more expensive than its Italian equivalent.

Making this pasta is relatively simple. If you mastered "aglio olio e peperoncino", you already know how to make it. The only variation is that you need to grate the bottarga beforehand and sprinkle it on the pasta once cooked and mixed with the sauce.

Let's go over this simple, delicious recipe in more detail.
Chop some parsley (as pictured) and peel a couple of cloves of garlic. Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a skillet and add the garlic (with some chilly flakes to taste). When the garlic is golden brown, remove the garlic and turn off the heat. Add half of the parsley only when the oil has cooled down, to prevent it from burning.
Grate some Bottarga on the side (as pictured, for 3 people).
Bring a large saucepan to the boil, add generous seasalt and drop the spaghetti. Mix regularly until cooked (al dente is essential for this dish), drain them retaining some of the boiling water, and combine into a serving plate with the heated oil and the rest of the parsley. Finally, sprinkle with Bottarga on top and serve immediately.

The amazing thing about this dish is that it can be cooked as "emergency food", but if well prepared it's actually a real delicacy. Not often you come across a 10 minutes preparation gourmet dish!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dried mullet roe is quite common in Taiwan, typically served sliced with garlic or leek. You can purchase it very easily at the airport in Taoyuan if you travel there for holiday.

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