Sometimes called the poor man's caviar, bottarga is the roe pouch of tuna or grey mullet, and sometimes swordfish. The roe is expertly removed from the fish
and then cured in sea salt and massaged by hand to eliminate air pockets from one to several weeks. It is then pressed and hung to be air dried for about a
month. The result is a dry hard slab, which is coated in beeswax for preservation. In fact, the length of drying is important. Make sure you buy bottarga that has been dried for a long time for superior flavor. Bottarga has a salty flavor that reminds one instantly of the sea. Colors naturally vary from golden yellow to darker shades of reddish brown.
In Italy, bottarga is best-known in Sicilian and Sardinian cuisine but also in mainland Liguria and Calabria where it is called ovotarica. Its culinary properties can
be compared to those of dry anchovies, though it is much more expensive. Bottarga is often served with lemon juice as an appetizer or used in pasta dishes. It
can also be used as a bread topping, a salad ingredient or mixed into rice dishes. It is also great with mashed potatoes or scrambles eggs. Bottarga is usually
served sliced thinly or grated. Pare very thin slices from a block of bottarga with a vegetable peeler. It needs to be thin so that it clings to the tongue thus
extracting the maximum "salty" flavor.
Bottarga and Mozzarella Crostini
(Makes 12 crostini)
6 slice homestyle white bread
6 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 ounce grated bottarga
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Trim crusts from bread and cut the slices in half diagonally.
Place the bread on a baking sheet.
Cut the mozzarella into 12 (1/4-inch thick) slices
Place a slice of cheese on each piece of bread, cutting the cheese to fit.
Sprinkle the grated bottarga over the cheese.
Dot each crostini with some butter.
Bake until the cheese melts and bread begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large artichoke
3 ounces arugula
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small orange
1 ounce bottarga
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
Reserve 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and set it aside.
Put the remaining juice in a bowl with 2 cups of water.
Trim the artichoke, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly slice lengthwise. *
Place the slices in the lemon water.
Place the arugula, radishes, and onion in a salad bowl.
Peel the orange and dice the orange segments.
Add the orange with any collected juices to the bowl.
Slice the bottarga as thinly as possible and add it to the bowl.
Drain the artichokes and add to the salad.
Season with salt.
Add the reserved lemon juice and enough olive oil to coat the ingredients.
Toss gently and serve immediately.
* How to trim an artichoke
Spaghetti with Bottarga
1 pound spaghetti
4 ounces grated bottarga
1/4 cup olive oil
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.
Drain the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the olive oil and toss.
Add the bottarga and continue tossing until the pasta is coated with the sauce.
Season with salt if necessary. Serve immediately.
Bucatini with Bottarga
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
1 pound bucatini or perciatelli pasta
3 cloves minced garlic
Pinch red pepper flakes (according to your taste)
Optional: Handful grape tomatoes, cut in half
3 ounces grated bottarga, divided
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat.
Add breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Saute until crumbs are golden brown. Remove crumbs from skillet and set aside.
Cook pasta in salted water until al dente.
Drain pasta, reserving some of the pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add garlic and red pepper flakes.
Saute 1-2 minutes until garlic is just beginning to brown.
Add pasta and optional grape tomatoes to skillet. Toss to coat.
Add 2 tablespoons bottarga, parsley, and lemon juice. Toss to coat.
If the pasta seems a little too dry, add some of the pasta water.
Add half the breadcrumbs. Toss again and transfer to a serving dish.
Distribute remaining bottarga over the top. Serve.
Pass remaining breadcrumbs to sprinkle over individual servings.
WHOLE OR GRATED
Bucatini, also known as Perciatelli, is a long, hollow pasta. The hollow center captures the sauce, delivering more flavor.
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