Why It Works
- A sauce made of melted butter, with just a splash of light soy sauce, forms the base for this explosion of seafood flavor.
- Nori strips add a deep, oceanic flavor that's essential to the dish.
Mentaiko spaghetti has become a classic of the Japanese-Italian kitchen, and is popular on late-night menus as an accompaniment to heavy drinking. It's also as easy as can be: deliciously buttery noodles, tossed with spicy cured pollack roe and strips of nori—all the flavor of the ocean, packed into an effortless bowl.
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 pound (225g) dried spaghetti
- 1 1/2 to 2 ounces mentaiko (40 to 55g; about 2 small lobes), depending on how strong you want the flavor to be (see note)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (20ml) light (usukuchi) soy sauce
- 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, melted
- Nori seaweed strips, for garnish
In a pot of salted boiling water, cook spaghetti until al dente, according to timing given in package instructions.
Meanwhile, using a sharp paring knife, slice mentaiko lobes open and scrape out roe. Reserve 2 teaspoons (10g) roe for garnish and place the rest in a large heatproof bowl. Add soy sauce and melted butter to bowl with roe, stirring to combine.
When spaghetti is done, transfer to bowl with butter sauce using tongs. Add 1/4 cup (60ml) pasta-cooking water, then stir and toss pasta until it is evenly coated in sauce, any excess liquid has been absorbed, and a smooth, creamy sauce has formed. Transfer to serving bowls, top each bowl with reserved roe, and garnish with nori strips. Serve right away, mixing nori and roe garnish in with chopsticks before eating.
Mentaiko is spicy cured pollack roe, available at Japanese markets (sometimes in the freezer section). Make sure not to get the similar tarako, which is only salted and not spiced, as the flavor won't be quite right.