Spaghetti con la Bottarga | Spaghetti with Cured Mullet Roe
Looking for a flavorful and simple dish for your fish-themed Christmas Eve table (or for any occasion, really)? This is the simplest, most straight-forward Sardinian dish out there. Bottarga di muggine, cured grey mullet roe, has been a staple on the southwestern coast of the island near the Gulf of Oristano for millennia. The briny, savory note that bottarga delivers when bloomed in oil has been fully embraced by Sardinias at large and you’ll find sliced or grated roe lending flavor to beautifully slick oily pasta sauces throughout the island. High-quality bottarga di muggine is available online (Gustiamo has the excellent Oro di Cabras brand) and I recommend purchasing the whole lobes, rather than the pre-grated variety, as it’s fresher and has a more intense flavor. Some cooks add chili or chopped parsley but I prefer a stripped down dish. If you wish to use either, add them just as the garlic begins to take color.
Serves 4 to 6
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 ounces bottarga (I like bottarga di muggine), grated or sliced thin
1 pound spaghetti or spaghettoni
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and cook just until it takes color, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the bottarga, and set aside to bloom in the oil. Remove and discard the garlic (or even better-smear it on a slice of toasted bread).
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt the water (see page 000). When the salt has dissolved, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente (see page 000). Drain and add to the pan with the bottarga. Stir to coat. Serve immediately.
Give this dish a Sicilian twist by adding ground salted pistachios as they do at Osteria Il Principe e Il Pirata on the island of Pantelleria. I buzz up about a 1/2 cup in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of oil and the garlic from the pan until chunky. Then I add the mixture to the pan with the bloomed bottarga and toss with pasta.