Spaghetti alla Bottarga, the Dream Comes True

A pile of fishy funky heaven on a plate

There’s been no dish in recent memory that’s captured my imagination like Spaghetti alla Bottarga. Bottarga is a not so common ingredient that’s basically a super funky, salty and sweet cured Mediterranean mullet roe. Varieties of Bottarga are found across all the Mediterranean, but the general consensus is that it originated in Egypt (thus the name being taken from the Arabic word Batarekh which apparently has roots in the Coptic language). Bottarga is very potent and it’s definitely a love it or hate it thing. It’s usually eaten as thinly sliced carpaccio with drizzled lemon and olive oil, but when combined with a delicious spaghetti, I feel is when it truly comes to life. Spaghetti alla Bottarga in a strictly Sicillian sense is just dry spaghetti, cooked, drizzled with lots of great olive oil and then with just some grated bottarga added on top. I wanted to next-level it a bit, so I made this crazy shrimp stock that was reduced down for hours, until it was this pungent thick nectar of the sea gods. The spaghetti was tossed in this sauce before getting the Bottarga treatment and drizzled with some excellent extra virgin olive oil. Incredible, recipe after the jump.

For the sauce:

20 jumbo prawn heads and shells

1 large celery stalk roughly chopped

1 large onion peeled and chopped into chunks

2 medium onions roughly chopped

1 large tomato quartered

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup of brandy

1 sage leaf

Olive oil

1 tbsp of butter

zest of 1/2 a lemon

1/3 cup of heavy cream

In a large pot, heat some olive oil over a high heat, when smoking, add the prawn shells and heads and saute until red and starting to caramelise about 5-7min. With a wooden spoon, tap the prawn heads to help them release their juices. Add the brandy, and let it boil over, scraping away any bits of deliciousness that might have become stuck to the bottom. Add all the other ingredients and enough water to cover everything and keep on a high heat until the stock starts to boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a light simmer and leave to cook, uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours. Strain the sauce into a wide pan and over a high heat reduce until it’s thick and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours again. Adjust seasoning along the way. Once the sauce has reduced to about a third, it’s going to be a thick sweet funky thing of beauty, add the lemon zest, whisk in the cream (add more cream if you feel necessary) and whisk in the butter. Your sauce is ready. Keep warm until it’s ready to receive the pasta. Don’t leave it standing for too long as it might split, keep it on the stove for a maximum of 20mins after adding the butter and cream. Throw your spaghetti into the pan, and then serve it. Once plated, add 2-3tbsp of freshly grated Bottarga to every plate, and drizzle with some good quality EVOO. This dish will change your life.


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