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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Cook the Book: Spaghetti with Sardinian Bottarga

About This Recipe

Yield:4
This recipe appears in: This Week In Recipes

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces spaghetti
  • 8 ounces bottarga
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 dried chiles
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Procedures

  1. 1

    Squeeze the juice of 2 of the lemons. Crumble the chiles.

  2. 2

    Grate 3/4 of the bottarga into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine to a cream. Slowly add the olive oil to form a thick sauce.

  3. 3

    Cook the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain and reserve a little of the cooking water.

  4. 4

    Stir the hot water into the bottarga cream to loosen, then season with chiles and black pepper. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and toss to coat thoroughly.

  5. 5

    Serve the remaining bottarga grated over and a piece of lemon.

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