If you’re a fan of bold and savory flavors, you may have already encountered Italian bottarga, a delicacy that’s been a well-kept secret of Mediterranean cuisine for centuries. This gastronomic treasure, often referred to as the “gold of the sea,” is the result of a centuries-old process in which the roe sacs of mullet or tuna are skillfully extracted, salted, and air-dried to create a luxuriously textured and exquisitely flavored ingredient.
As we dive into the fascinating world of bottarga, prepare to be captivated by the history, craftsmanship, and culinary versatility of this esteemed gem that has tantalized the palates of food lovers around the world.
Bottarga Origin and Curiosities
The name Bottarga comes from the Arabic word “butarih”, which means salted or smoked fish. In Sardinian dialect it is called “butarga” or “bottariga”. The preparation technique of bottarga has been known since ancient times, often as a secondary activity of tuna and mullet fishermen.
There are even historical finds dating back to the Egyptian period. The spread then in the Mediterranean area is attributable to the Arabs. The Arabs were in fact famous in this area for the refined culinary techniques that they transmitted to other populations of the Mediterranean, often together with the name of the products.
Traditionally, bottarga was the meal of fishermen who spent the day at sea. For centuries it was a very expensive food, which could only be afforded by the rich, it was considered a valuable gift and a very important bargaining chip. And until the seventies, it remained an elite food, reserved for those who worked in the tuna traps and for moneylenders. Today, however, it is more easily available.
How Bottarga Is Made
To make the Tuna Bottarga, the ovarian bag (or gonad) needs to be extracted from the female fish, taking care not to break it. After washing it to remove all impurities, need to be salted with sea salt, lay the eggs on a wooden board, until they become completely white.
Then another board of seasoned wood need to be laid on top of the roe for pressing, and again on top of the stones, heavy enough to compress the bags and allow the salt to be absorbed entirely, a period that varies from 10 to 15 days, depending on the size.
Once this has been done, they everything need to be air-dried for a few days and cured in a dry and ventilated place for at least 60-90 days, and after having been rinsed of the excess salt, the bags will dry and take on their characteristic color, tending to red, and their delicate scent of sea and salt.
Characteristics of Tuna Bottarga
Tuna Bottarga is darker in color than the mullet kind, less amber-colored and tending towards red. It has a shape similar to that of a parallelepiped, due to the drying process that is carried out between sturdy presses. Its taste is clearly stronger and more pronounced than that of mullet Bottarga.
Bottarga Calories And Nutrition
Tuna Bottarga is a food rich in Omega 3, a valuable element for reducing the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular mortality, with positive influences on the neurological system. A plus helps to reduce inflammation in the body.
In addition, bottarga also contains squalene, which is a steroid that has recently been used in medical and therapeutic fields to nourish the skin, relieve pain and inflammation of the joints; it is also useful for defense against common viruses, to keep the skeletal and circulatory systems healthy and as a muscle mass enhancer.
This delicious food can be used to prepare appetizers such as aperitif canapés, bruschettas or sandwiches. It can also be eaten in the form of thin slices seasoned with a drizzle of oil, to taste it in all its goodness, or in salad with cherry tomatoes cut into slices, onion and extra virgin olive oil.
As for the first courses, bottarga goes perfectly with pasta, better if a simple recipe, such as the classic spaghetti with garlic, oil and chilli pepper with a generous sprinkling of grated bottarga on top, raw. But the dishes that go well with this food are many, from all possible variations of pasta with fish to pasta with pecorino cheese and bottarga for those who want to dare, to risotto.
The ideal is, however, to add it raw once the recipe is finished, because it is the way in which it makes more and the flavour maintains all its characteristics. A really winning combination is that of raw artichokes with a drizzle of oil, pepper and bottarga.
The bottarga goes well with many flavors, some even add it on pizza! With bottarga you can let your imagination run wild: in this Recipe today we cook it with some clams and Spaghetti.
Spaghetti With Bottarga And Clams Recipe
Spaghetti with bottarga and clams is a tasty and refined first course, a variation of the classic spaghetti with clams with the addition of mullet roe or tuna and cherry tomatoes.
A starred chef’s dish that you can replicate at home, to bring the taste of the sea to the table and surprise your guests: the spaghetti will be served with clam sauce and enriched with the addition of powdered bottarga during the final cooking phase, but also as a condiment before serving. The final result will be an exquisite and delicious dish that will win everyone over at first taste.
Here is how to prepare them to perfection.
- Clams 1 Kg
- Spaghetti 360 gr
- Cherry Tomatoes 200 gr
- Extravirgin Olive Oil 5 tablespoons
- Bottarga 3 tablespoon
- Garlic 1 clove
- Parsley Finely Chopped
- Wash the clams under cold running water. Place them in a colander in a bowl with cold water and let them drain for about half an hour. Drain them and place them in a pan, cover with the lid and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes so that the clams open.
- Remove the closed seafood, shell most of the clams and leave some more with the shell. Filter the water with a narrow mesh strainer.
- Wash the tomatoes, cut them in half or cloves and sauté them in a pan with oil and garlic: cook for about 2 minutes over moderate heat. Add the shelled clams and chopped parsley. In the meantime, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water. Also add the clams in the pan with the shell and cook for about 5 minutes: gradually add the cooking liquid of the filtered clams, until it forms a not too thick cream.
- Add the spaghetti drained “al dente” in a pan and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Only at the end add the Bottarga, stir over high heat, so as to obtain creamy spaghetti. Before serving, add a little grated bottarga. Your spaghetti with clams and bottarga are ready to be brought to the table.
- In this recipe i’ve used spaghetti but you can also use linguine or tagliatelle. As for clams, you can use fresh clams or frozen uncooked ones.
- You can also flavor the dish with the addition of lemon juice or give a spicy note with a little chili pepper.
- Alternatively, you can prepare spaghetti with “Aglio, Olio, Peperoncino”, a simple and very tasty first course made with extravirgin olive oil, garlic and chili pepper, with the bottarga grated at the very end.
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