Serious Eats: Recipes

Cook the Book: Spaghetti with Sardinian Bottarga

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

Experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients has to be my favorite part about testing recipes for Cook the Book, and this recipe for Spaghetti with Sardinian Bottarga from Italian Easy is a prime example of a dish that immediately caught my eye. I've only eaten bottarga (cured fish roe) in restaurants once or twice. Finding it didn't pose too much of a problem—it was tucked in between cans of caviar and salted anchovies in the deli section.

I took it home and assembled the other components of this unusual pasta dish: lemons, chiles, olive oil, and spaghetti (it's a brief list). The prep and cooking time are also minimal but for the life of me, I had no idea what the finished dish was going to taste like.

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The bottarga is finely grated and mixed with a good amount of lemon juice and olive oil to form a thick and creamy sauce. It's loosened with a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water and seasoned with chiles and freshly ground black pepper, tossed with the hot spaghetti, then finished with additional grated bottarga and a slice of lemon.

For all of my speculating on what the spaghetti would come out tasting like, the finished dish was very different from what I imagined. I feared it might be fishy and overly acidic but the spaghetti was perfectly balanced and tasted distinctly of the sea (in the best possible way).

The bottarga lent a flavor reminiscent of sea urchin or caviar, but considerably more mild; the lemon's sourness made it bright, refreshing, and addictive. This unusual and incredibly delicious pasta should probably be reserved for a smaller Italian pasta course instead of a big heaping bowl since it's quite rich—the flavors should really be savored.

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