Monday, 3 August 2009

Spaghetti alla bottarga

It's our last day in Sardinia. There I have said it. It's been a holiday full of the expected blissfully hot weather, tranquil beaches and perilous boat excursions with the Neapolitan at the helm, but also punctuated by unforeseen events, including a dash back to London, a missed flight and the getting to know of one of my husband's most cherished friend and her family.

Between long days at the beach --interrupted only by lazy lunches of tomato salad and fruit-- and dinners with friends all over the north of the island, there hasn't been much time to cook. 

And now there are only a few hours left to pack the half-used, sand-crusted bottles of sunscreen, the salt-stained beach bag and the unfinished lofty novel. So, as we say farewell, I wanted to share with you a wonderful pasta recipe that is one of the staples of Sardinian cuisine: spaghetti alla bottarga. 

Bottarga is a Sardinian delicacy of cured fish roe, often grey mullet, more rarely tuna. Sometimes called the poor man's caviar, it's also found in Southern France under the name of poutargue and in Spain, where it's known as botarga. 

In Sardinia it's sold in supermarkets, vacuum-packed, after it's been massaged by hand to eliminate air pockets, then dried and cured in sea salt for a few weeks. Once it's taken the shape of a dry, hard slab, it's coated in beeswax for keeping. I'm not sure how long it's supposed to last once opened but I have eaten it several weeks later to no ill effect.

You can also buy already-grated bottarga, but of course it doesn't taste nearly the same. The difference is even starker than that between just-grated parmesan cheese and the pale yellow powder one finds in tubs on supermarket shelves.

Perhaps the best thing about bottarga is how quickly it allows you to slam dinner on the table. Other than spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, I don't know an easier recipe.

Spaghetti alla bottarga (feeds four)
400g spaghetti
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
A bunch of fresh parsley
1 fresh red chilli

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Throw in a generous handful of salt. Wait until it boils again and add your pasta. 

In another pan, gently heat up the olive oil and let the garlic cloves and the chopped chilli infuse it. It should take about 3 minutes. Then grate some bottarga over your pan. If you don't have a grater, just slice it very thin and then cut it again until it forms tiny squares no bigger than a grain of rice. Depending on your taste you may want between 4 and 8 tablespoons of bottarga. 

Fry the bottarga gently for a further 5 minutes, or about the time it takes your pasta to cook. Drain the pasta about 30 seconds before it's ready. Add it to the pan with the bottarga, sprinkle with fresh parsley, a grind of pepper and another tablespoon of bottarga. Mix well and serve immediately.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the post! Really such a nice and decent information shared here with awesome stuff… 
    Generally I don't learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, very great article.Also visit my page bottarga