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.
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.
- 16 ounces spaghetti
- 8 ounces bottarga
- 3 lemons
- 2 dried chiles
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Squeeze the juice of 2 of the lemons. Crumble the chiles.
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.
Cook the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain and reserve a little of the cooking water.
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.
Serve the remaining bottarga grated over and a piece of lemon.