Afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique dishes on bottarga

As the owner of gourmet grocery store Cheese Boutique, Afrim Pristine knows a thing or two about specialty imported products. “Bottarga is a very unique ingredient because it totally flies under the radar and I’d say one out of 100 people have heard of it,” says Pristine. “The taste is like ocean water. It’s very vibrant, a little funky and salty but it really touches each one of your taste buds.”

Surprisingly to Italian foodies, many people haven’t heard of or tasted bottarga before. So, let’s dive into exactly what it is. This Italian delicacy is known as ‘Mediterranean caviar.’ Hailing from southern Italian areas like Sicily and Sardinia, bottarga is a cured mullet or tuna fish roe that has been salted, pressed and seasoned for four to five months.

In order to make bottarga, the roe pouches are extracted from the fish’s belly. From there, the pouches are washed in ice-cold water and then cured in sea salt. After being washed thoroughly again, the sacks are pressed to remove the brine and other liquids. Finally, the ageing phase begins as the slabs are placed in a well-ventilated area and set to dry until matured.

How it’s eaten

Due to its unique and strong aroma, bottarga is the kind of ingredient that works best when combined with simple dishes. A little bottarga goes a long way, so the best practice is to grate it on a microplane or thinly slice it using a mandoline. Keep scrolling to read about the popular ways to eat it.

Pasta con la bottarga

The most popular way to enjoy bottarga is when it’s grated on top of pasta. It’s often prepared with linguine, red pepper flakes, garlic, parsley leaves, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

“For me, bottarga is the star of the dish. It’s the last thing you’re putting on the pasta and I like to use a microplane to grate it fluffily like snow. In other dishes, adding cheese would be the last step, but in this case, bottarga is what really seasons the pasta and it’s the best way to enjoy it,” says Pristine.

Risotto con la bottarga

An image of Risotto con la bottarga.

If you’re more into dishes with a creamy consistency, risotto is for you. This meal is made with rice, vegetable broth, garlic, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, and topped off with slices of (or grated) bottarga.

Crostini misti alla bottarga

An image of Crostini misti alla bottarga.

Consisting of small pieces of grilled or toasted bread known as crostini, this appetizer recipe is made special by topping it with sliced or grated bottarga, olive oil, cherry tomatoes, Sardinian celery and mozzarella.

Since bottarga is a delicacy, the product is very expensive. With that being said, you want it to last a very long time. “I recommend not freezing it,” says Pristine. “Wrap it up a couple of times in tin foil to keep the freshness. It won’t dry out this way and will stay fairly soft by keeping it in your fridge.”

The next time you are looking to add some Italian flair to your cooking, consider cooking with bottarga. Although the ingredient is meant to work best with simple dishes, the fun thing about cooking is being able to get creative. “Bottarga is an ingredient that is meant to be showcased on its own. Think of a black truffle on pasta. You don’t want to add so many ingredients and I think it should be treated the same way because of its unique flavour profile. I think it’s very fun and a good idea to really experiment with it as well. Once you taste it, you really understand how unique of an ingredient it is,” says Pristine.


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