PASTA CON BOTTARGA ( Pasta with Grated Bottarga)

Just recently I was speaking to a group of lovers of Sicily (TSAA-The Sicilian Association Of Australia) about recipes from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking (Reprint edition, Released date 1 Dec 2014) that are easy to cook and very suitable for festive occasions. One of these recipes was Pasta con bottarga – it is special.

Si vo viviri gustusu, ova di tunnu e cacocciulu spinusu (Sicilian proverb).
Se volete vivere di gusto, uova di tonno e cardi spinosi (Italian translation).
If you wish to live like a gastronome, eat tuna eggs and prickly cardoons.

I first wrote this post in March 2009. I cooked Pasta con bottarga on Good Friday (day of abstinence). My mother, brother and sister in law visited us in Melbourne. I had bought the bottarga from Enoteca Sileno.

Bottarga (from the Arab word botarikh – salted fish eggs) features strongly in Sicilian food. It is called buttarga or buttarica in Sicilian and it is the name for the cured roe sacs harvested from the females of the grey mullet (bottarga di muggine) and tuna (bottarga di tonno.) The tuna roe is the most common in Sicily and pasta with bottarga is a Sicilian specialty well worth eating on special occasions.

bottarga DSC_0057

In Sicily almost every part of the tuna is eaten, either fresh or processed – canned, salted, air dried and smoked. These days, the skills and traditions of locally processing and preserving some parts of the tuna are at risk of disappearing. Some of these processes tuna products are listed as endangered tastes in the Slow Food compendium of The Ark of Taste.

Making bottarga is labour intensive. It was once made by dipping the sac in beeswax and leaving it to dry in the sun. In more recent times the roe sac is treated with sea salt, dried for up to two months and hand pressed into a solid mass.

Bottarga is relatively expensive in Australia (and not cheap in Sicily) and is available in specialty food stores that specialize in Italian products. It has a distinctive flavour and is rather salty, so it is used sparingly to flavour dishes. Anchovies are used much the same way, but substituting anchovies for bottarga, would be like replacing truffles with mushrooms.

Before it is grated over the pasta, the outer membrane of the roe sacs needs to be removed and then it is either grated (using the courser part of a cheese grater) or shaved very finely and soaked in extra virgin olive oil to soften before use. Bottarga is also a popular product of Sardinia where it is presented with fresh pasta made in the shape of malloreddusgnocchetti or small gnocchi. Long pasta such as spaghetti or spaghettini or bucatini are traditionally used in Sicily.

long pasta, 400g (spaghetti, bucatini),
bottarga, 100g
garlic, 5 cloves finely chopped,
parsley, 1 cup, cut finely cut,
basil, 10-12 leaves,
extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup,
red chilli, (to taste).

Heat the olive oil, add garlic parsley and chilli. Over high heat cook it until the garlic is lightly golden and the parsley has wilted.
Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce.
Add grated bottarga and the basil leaves, stir and serve.



4 thoughts on “PASTA CON BOTTARGA ( Pasta with Grated Bottarga)”

  1. so my son bought me a vacuum packed bottarga. it was packed 5/7/50. how long can it stay vacuum packed and if i take it out to pack wax paper first and then foil to dry out, how long can it stay that way?

  2. I have always bought bottarga vacuum packed and kept it unopened till I was ready to use it. If there was any left over, I rubbed it with olive oil and returned it to the original wrapping. I then added extra plastic/or foil wrapping around it and used it within the next few weeks.
    I cannot say how long yours will last – it depends on the company who processed the bottarga and packed it. It is heavily salted and this helps to preserve it.
    Enjoy it- it is very expensive.
    Bottarga is also good grated on Caponata.

  3. Hi Marisa,

    I am planning a dinner to celebrate my partner’s birthday in July (in Brisbane). For the last few years I have bought a black truffle from WA as a special treat but this year have decided to make Pasta con Bottarga. I’ve actually not had it before but it sounds like we’d love it. What do you think would be good to follow the pasta as a main course? Should I keep with the fishy theme? Or go elsewhere?

    1. David, I am so sorry. I have only just seen this message; I have been overseas and I have missed it.
      What a wonderful thing to do for your partner!!
      It is July so by now you may have prepared the pasta with bottarga and I hope that it was appreciated. Without knowing anything about your culinary tastes I would have found it difficult to suggest a following dish – either meat or fish would be fine unless you wanted to select “fish” as the theme for the meal. The pasta is flavourful but dry so I would have said that emphasis on vegetables and a moist dessert (preferably with fruit) would be fitting and provide balance.
      Whatever you have prepared/ will prepare is likely to be appreciated by your partner – it is such a generous and affectionate way to celebrate a birthday.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.