Japanese Mentaiko Spaghetti (Pasta With Spicy Cod Roe and Butter Sauce) Recipe

Vicky Wasik

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.

Recipe Facts



Active: 15 mins
Total: 15 mins
Serves: 2 servings

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  • 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


  1. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook spaghetti until al dente, according to timing given in package instructions.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
772 Calories
39g Fat
86g Carbs
19g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 772
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 39g 50%
Saturated Fat 23g 116%
Cholesterol 140mg 47%
Sodium 2066mg 90%
Total Carbohydrate 86g 31%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 19g
Vitamin C 3mg 14%
Calcium 44mg 3%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 352mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)