Recipes containing bottarga are more numerous than one might think, for these fish eggs are both savoury and redolent of the sea, making them very versatile in different combinations.
There are numerous gourmet recipes with bottarga. Many chefs who are lucky enough to work in kitchens by the sea often use the natural flavour of bottarga to enhance their dishes.
'Spaghetti with bottarga' is the classic Italian dish that comes to mind when we mention this special ingredient (which can be tuna or mullet), but the combinations with bottarga are far more numerous.
Find out how to combine bottarga in your dishes, from appetisers to main courses.
What is bottarga?
Bottarga is a fish product that consists of mullet or tuna roe and is also known as 'Mediterranean caviar'. Returned to the fore only recently, bottarga actually has ancient origins and its preparation still follows the procedures established by tradition.
To obtain bottarga, the ovarian sac is extracted from the female tuna or mullet fish, which - after having been carefully washed to remove all impurities - is subjected to the salting process. Subsequently, to facilitate drying, it is pressed and left to mature for a period of at least 90 days.
Regarding its ancient origins, it is estimated that the term bottarga derives from the Arabic 'batārikh', which literally means 'fish eggs'. This suggests that the Arabs, during their trade in the Mediterranean Sea, influenced the local cuisine with their recipes, but it might not be so.
According to other sources, in fact, the bottarga dates back to 3000 years ago, made for the first time by the Phoenicians, skilled navigators and traders, who shared the original recipe with the populations who lived in Sardinia at the time.
Combinations with bottarga
Like caviar, bottarga also boasts a brackish flavour that gives dishes a unique taste. But what are the best combinations with bottarga?
Lemon and hazelnut are among the simplest combinations, which give this ingredient an extra boost, enhancing it to the maximum.
Among the strangest combinations are cauliflower, egg and fresh cheese. A culinary taboo existed for a long time in combining fish and dairy products, but tradition denies us. In Sicily, in fact, spaghetti and clams are often served with grated cheese and as unusual and strange as it may seem, the balance that is created is noteworthy.
Recipe ideas for starters with bottarga
Croutons with bottarga
Toast the bread and spread on it a layer of butter. Add a thin slice of bottarga and a sprinkle of lemon. Simple but effective.
Ricotta and bottarga mousse
Take 100g of ricotta and a heaped teaspoon of grated bottarga. Work the ingredients together with a fork. Add 1/4 tsp lemon zest and serve with bread sticks or toasted bread.
Carpaccio of bottarga
Slice the bottarga very finely and spread it out on a plate. Season it with juice, lemon zest and a few leaves of marjoram.
Canapes with scrambled eggs and bottarga
Toast sandwich bread until crispy. Prepare scrambled eggs to perfection and place them on the toasted bread. Top off with a slice of bottarga and a grind of pepper.
Pasta dishes with bottarga
Cheese and pepper with bottarga
Prepare traditional tonnarelli with cheese and pepper. Put them on the table and serve a small bowl with plenty of grated bottarga - each diner can help themselves.
Fusilloni with green tomato, squid and bottarga cream
An author's recipe in perfect balance of sweetness and flavour with surprising contrasts of textures.
Spaghetti with garlic, oil, chilli, shrimp and bottarga
A recipe that tastes of the sea from all points of view. The sweetness of the prawns will be enhanced by the savory tip of the bottarga.
Bottarga: drinks pairings
Despite its strong flavour, bottarga remains a delicate ingredient that must be respected and never overlooked. For this reason, in the context of combinations with drinks, it is advisable to associate the bottarga with some good bubbly.
With the classic spaghetti alla bottarga, drink a still white wine with mineral notes or slightly perfumed. Also excellent with cocktails, bottarga goes well with dry drinks based on gin or vodka.
Tuna bottarga and mullet bottarga are the most commonly found types of bottarga. You can find them at the market to be sliced or grated, but also in powder to put directly on croutons, canapés, salads and first courses.
Given the delicacy of this precious ingredient, it's certainly best not to cook bottarga or in any case not to bring it to high temperatures so as not to spoil its natural marine flavor. Always use it raw or heat it slightly with only the heat of the pasta or sauce in which you have decided to use it.