The last time I visited Italy, I tried a beautiful, simple and delicate pasta dish… spaghettini alla bottarga. What a wonderful experience – the sea in a dish. Delicate, light, but totally satisfying.
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Bottarga has been a tradition in the Mediterranean since fish were first caught. It is made from the roe of freshly-caught fish. In Sicilia, the delicacy is tuna fish roe, as in Sardegna, but in the lagoons around the town of Orbetello in Toscana, they harvest grey mullet roe and produce the most sublime and delicious bottarga of them all.
MAKE YOUR OWN BOTTARGA
You must begin, as always, with the best and freshest of ingredients. I have used the roe from mullet, tuna, snapper, flathead and salmon, but whatever fish you choose, the roe must be intact. Cover roe in sea salt (preferably not iodized) for two hours.
Remove and quickly wash under running water for one or two seconds. Hang in a dry spot where there is a breeze – ideally, a gentle sea breeze. Here in Australia, hanging them in the fridge is a good alternative. After three weeks, depending on the size, the roe will be firm and dry. Place the roe in vacuum bags and seal. Keep refrigerated, although the roe will also keep unrefrigerated for up to three months.
Bottarga has been a tradition in the Mediterranean since fish were first caught. It is made from the roe of freshly-caught fish.
SPAGHETTINI ALLA BOTTARGA
8 tblspns bottarga, grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
olive oil for frying
salt to taste
1. In a pan, gently fry garlic in olive oil and add 4 tblspns grated bottarga. Do not burn garlic.
2. In a pot, cook spaghettini in ample, unsalted boiling water. Cook until al dente, adding salt when almost cooked. Drain and reserve some cooking water.
3. Toss pasta into pan with garlic and bottarga and add 2-3 tblspns of reserved water. Gently mix and dish out.
4. Spoon a further 2 tblspns of grated bottarga onto each plate and serve immediately.
Enjoy with a good white wine – I suggest a Pinot Grigio, or an Albarino.