What is Bottarga? Tips and Recipes
Everything you want to know about Bottarga: what it is, how to cook and how to store this gourmet food product hailing from Southern Italian regions.
Bottarga is the name that Italians use for a special cured and salted fish roe, typical of Southern Italian regions.
There are different kinds of bottarga, but the most famous and fine one is mullet bottarga (bottarga di muggine). The flavor of mullet roe is delicate but tasty. There is also tuna bottarga (bottarga di tonno), that has a stronger flavor and a darker color tending to Burgundy.
The origins of bottarga are very old and date back to ancient Egypt. Than, thanks to the Arabs the use of Bottarga spread throoghout the Mediterranean area. Nowadays bottarga recipes are very typical of Sardinian and Sicilian cuisine. The Sardinian bottarga is also called the "Gold of Sardinia", for its amber color. But it's necessary to remember that Bottarga is not only a Mediterranean tradition, but a similar product is produced in Japan too.
Bottarga is a product derived from the processing of mullet or tuna roe. In summer the mullets are caught and selected, and their eggs are extracted with great care. This phase is extremely delicate: it is important not to damage the sack containing the eggs.
Once extracted, these are washed with water and ice and well cleaned. After that, the sacks are sprinkled with salt and left to rest. Finally, the fish sacks are washed, pressed and prepared for drying. It's in this last stage that bottarga take its characteristic scent and color.
How to store bottarga
Wrap the fish roe in aluminum foil and store it in the warmest part of the fridge. In this way you can keep it for months. Another good practice is to store bottarga in a jar with extra virgin olive oil. Once the bottarga is finished, you can use the remaining oil to flavor your dishes.
And now let's see how to cook bottarga. Actually, the best way to use it is raw. The most traditional recipe is “spaghetti alla bottarga”, that is a simple pasta with bottarga recipe.
- Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water.
- In a saucepan put some extra virgin olive oil and minced garlic, and brown it for a few seconds.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and lemon zest.
- Drain the pasta when is “al dente” (slightly undercooked) and put in the oil.
- Finally add the grated bottarga.
- The chef's touch: use tomato confit to enrich the recipe.
And if you want to make a gourmet appetizer, cut bottarga in thin slices and serve it seasoned with olive oil and lemon.
Bottarga wine pairings
To appreciate the bottarga flavor match your recipe with a still dry white wine like a Vernaccia di Oristano, Vermentino di Gallura, Donnafugata, Etna bianco or Planeta Chardonnay.