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Sardinian Pasta with Cured Fish Roe: Bottarga con Fregola

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Sardinian pasta with bottarga

Sardinian pasta with bottarga

Holly A. Heyser
This is a seafood recipe with no visible seafood. It is my version of a Sardinian pasta with bottarga, a cured fish roe grated or sprinkled over many of their pasta dishes. It is salty, briny and yes, fishy -- but not in a bad way. Traditionally bottarga is dried mullet or tuna roe, but I use shad roe here. Bottarga can be bought over the internet, or if you are adventurous, made at home. For the pasta, I use fregola, which looks like big couscous, but you could use any small pasta. The keys to this recipe are good pasta, fresh herbs, almonds and good bottarga -- remember a little of this stuff goes a long way.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fregola or other small pasta
  • 20-30 fresh green almonds, or blanched regular ones
  • 1 finely chopped small chile
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove
  • 1 T. finely chopped chives or green onions
  • 1 T. finely chopped mint
  • 3 T. tiny capers, rinsed if stored in salt
  • 3 T. olive oil (use the good stuff)
  • Lemon wedges to serve
  • 1 T. ground bottarga, for garnish

Preparation:

If you have whole bottarga -- which is of higher quality than the pre-grated stuff -- cut off a one-inch piece and grind it or grate it, depending on whether your bottarga is hard-cured or still moist.

Boil your water, and salt it heavily. It should taste like the sea.

Cook the fregola for 10-12 minutes, or until still firm but edible -- you do not want mushy pasta.

If you are using green almonds, which are a delicacy found in some Middle Eastern or Italian markets in spring, crack them open and peel off the cream-colored skin, leaving the snow-white baby almond.

When the pasta is done, toss everything but the lemon wedges and the bottarga together in a big bowl. To finish the dish, squeeze some lemon juice over the pasta, then sprinkle about a teaspoon of bottarga over it all and serve at once.

I ate this with a Chenin Blanc from Clarksburg, in California, but any crisp white -- a Pinot Grigio would be excellent -- will go well with this recipe.

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