Recipe: Spaghetti with Bottarga, Lemon Zest, and Parsley
Are you a bit frantic this year trying to pull together a fabulous La Vigilia, the Christmas Eve fish feast, not even having the time to think out a decent menu? Well I am, but I’ve got a tip for you: Think bottarga, think spaghetti. Put them together and you’ve got an elegant Christmas Eve first course that prepares in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
If you’ve never brought a piece of bottarga into your home before, it’s time to start. Bottarga is salted fish roe. It has a lovely fishy flavor, it’s as elegant as fresh caviar, and it looks pretty shaved over pasta. If you love anchovies (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love this too, possibly even more. You add it to the pasta at the last minute, so it doesn’t start to cook and lose its deep, complex flavor.
Sicilian bottarga is salted, preserved tuna roe. In Sardinia it’s made from mullet. I kind of prefer the Sardinian version to the Sicilian. It’s a little less straight-on salty, and it’s richer and moister. It’s also a bit sweeter, lacking the slight bitter edge the Sicilian type can have (some people prefer that taste, but I don’t). You can purchase both Sicilian and Sardinian bottarga through Buonitalia.com. What you want to avoid is the pre-ground, powdered bottarga that comes in little plastic bags. It’s made from cruddy end cuts that are dehydrated and pulverized and sold to tourists in overpriced food shops in Sicily (I’ve also seen it at the Buon Italia store, in Chelsea Market). That stuff is a complete waste of money.
Everyone have a very Merry Christmas.
Spaghetti with Bottarga, Lemon Zest, and Parsley
(Serves 5 as a first course)
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 large fresh red peperoncino, minced, including the seeds
¼ cup dry vermouth
The grated zest from 2 large lemons
About 4 to 5 ounces of bottarga (you’ll want about ¾ cup shaved)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, the leaves lightly chopped
Put up a big pot of pasta cooking water, and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt, and drop in the spaghetti.
In a skillet large enough to hold all the spaghetti, combine the olive oil, the garlic, and the peperoncino, and cook over medium-low heat, just until everything is fragrant, about 2 minutes. You don’t want the garlic to color very much. When it starts to just turn golden, add the vermouth, let it bubble a few seconds, and then turn off the heat. Now add the lemon zest, and stir it into the oil.
When the spaghetti is al dente, drain it, and add it to the skillet. Turn the heat to low, and toss until the pasta is well coated with oil.
Transfer the spaghetti to a warmed serving bowl. Add half of the parsley, and, with a sharp vegetable peeler, shave on half of the bottarga. Toss gently. Shave the rest of the bottarga over the top, and scatter on the remaining parsley. Serve right away.