Get to know bottarga
I’m taking a chance with this summer pasta, as a good percentage of newcomers to my restaurants do not even know what bottarga is. But let me give you a full disclaimer: Once this exotic, Italian flavor hits your lips, you'll be coming back for more.
A special roe of bluefin tuna or red mullet, bottarga is traditionally grated, shaved or sliced, then sprinkled on antipasto or pasta. Food, like most things, is best when left to its own simple beauty, and bottarga is no exception. I prefer it served with the simplest ingredients I can find, thus the linguine, zucchini and yellow squash.
In a land far and away known as the ’80s, bottarga was only seen scantily scattered throughout the United States in the chicest of expensive restaurants. Today, not only can you find this ingredient in restaurants across the globe, but you can even order it directly to your home. I use mail-order services available through Market Hall Foods (markethallfoods.com) for importing specialty products like this one to our restaurants.
Most often, bottarga is imported from Pescasarda, Sardinia, on the Italian coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to its incredible sandy beaches and mountainous hiking landscape, the large island of Sardinia is home to the first and most authentic bottarga factory in the world. The island has seen over two hundred spawning periods, when red mullet and bluefin tuna are caught in nets between April and June on their way to coastal waters. The roe sections are then removed from the fish and undergo a one-month salt cure. Lastly, the roe is dried and pressed into blocks for three months of air sealing in plastic Cryovac packages, which keep the bottarga fresh.
Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 25 restaurants.
Linguine with Zucchini & Bottarga
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 ounces zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
8 ounces yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
3 large fresh mint sprigs, leaves removed and torn into 2 or 3 pieces each
1 1/2 cups Pomi strained tomatoes, simmered until reduced by half
1 pound dried linguine
1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs, fried in olive oil until golden brown
A small piece of bottarga di mugine
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 3 tablespoons kosher salt.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in another large pot over medium heat until hot. Add the red onion and cook, stirring, occasionally, until softened and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and yellow squash, season with Maldon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, half the mint, and the tomato sauce and remove from the heat.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain, reserving about 3/4 cup of the pasta water.
Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the sauce and stir and toss gently over medium heat until the pasta is well coated (add a splash or two more of the reserved pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce). Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and scatter the bread crumbs and the remaining mint over the top. Using a microplane or other rasp grater, grate lots of bottarga over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Per serving: 453 calories; 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 30 percent calories from fat); 67 g carbohydrates; 7 g sugar; 70 mg cholesterol; 780 mg sodium; 15 g protein; 4 g fiber.