Bottaga is the Mediterranean caviar, a decandent food able to make the simplest pasta dish a meal fit for a king.
What is Bottarga?
Bottarga is made with the fish gonads, salted and dried, then called "baffe".
The gonads are extracted from female fish, taking care not to break them, washed to remove impurities and then covered with sea salt, pressed and cured for at least 60-90 days. Salted and cured fish roe is a food particularly appreciated for its high protein content. The baffa of a tuna over 100 pounds may exceed the kilo.
Today mullet bottarga and tuna bottarga are produced only in some areas of Italy:
- Sardinia (Carloforte, Cabras, Alghero and Stintino);
- Tuscany (Orbetello);
- Sicily (Marzamemi, Favignana and Trapani)
Cured fish roe is available in the form of whole pieces (the ovarian bag intact), or in powder but the latter is less refined and gives less flavor to dishes.
How to Use Bottarga
Bottarga dishes are simple and refined at the same time.
As a starter, botargo - as it is sometimes called abroad - can be eaten in slices cut obliquely and sprinkled with a little olive oil, or simply on buttered bread slices.
In Sicily, it is used to season pasta dishes, grated in half a glass of warm water of the pasta, and added to pasta together with garlic fried in extra-virgin oilve oil. Read more recipes and uses of Bottarga.
Cured Tuna Heart
Another excellent Italian specialty food is cured tuna heart, produced in Sardinia and Sicily in a similar way to Bottarga.
Image: Bottarga, CC BY SA 2.0