Mario's Maccheroni alla chitarra and Bottarga

This dish was an experiment, prompted by some Japanese cooking I did for the Daring Cooks last challenge.  In their cuisine, dried bonito flakes get used quite a bit for stocks, marinades, soup, etc.  Which left me with a ginormous package of it.  Thinking what to do with all that fishy stuff, lit a bulb upstairs - could this stand in as a cheap form of bottarga??  Maybe not is the answer, after giving it a try.  Those bonito flakes were not the taste experience I was hoping for on my spaghettini.

Wikipedia says bottarga has been termed the poor man's caviar, but don't be fooled, that stuff is expensive. Not that I've ever eaten it, only heard about it online, and in cookbooks.  Though I have actually considered preparing my own, since bottarga is a form of preservation and we are into that, what with Charcuteapalooza happening and all.  You just need a source of tuna or red mullet roe and some salt.   But that will be another story.

Mario grates it on top of this dish, but some fresh mint, toasty breadcrumbs and Parmesan on top will suffice if you don't have any bottarga.  You start by oven-roasting fresh Roma tomatoes.  I didn't have any and used regular old common variety tomatoes.  Oh waah.  But they were delicious, fresh and locally grown.  So there.

Maccheroni alla Chitara
adapted from The Babbo Cookbook, by Mario Batali  (my changes are highlighted)

4 Servings
Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
Makes 1 cup
1 lb. Roma tomatoes, or regular tomatoes 
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200F.  Cut the tomatoes in half length-wise, squeeze out the seeds.  In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, oil, salt and pepper and toss the tomatoes with the mixture to coat.

Place the tomatoes, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Roast for 4 hours, or until the tomatoes are very soft and have lost about half of their liquid.  When cool enough, slip off the skins.  Store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to 4 weeks. 
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chili pepper, of the strength you prefer (he uses habanero?!!)
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup oven-roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup basic tomato sauce
1  lb. maccheroni alla chitarra or spaghettini
1/4 cup whole flat-leaf parsley leaves or mint leaves
bottarga, for grating, or grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted fresh bread crumbs

Bring 6 quartsof water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.

In a 12-14 inch saute pan, combine the olive oil, chili and garlic and saute until the garlic is almost brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, until tender, yet al dente.  Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato mixture with the parsley or mint.  Toss over high heat for 1 minute.  Divide among heated serving bowls, scatter the shaved bottarga, or parmesan cheese, over each, sprinkle with bread crumbs and serve.

This was a quick and easy dish, excepting for the oven-roasting step, which can be skipped for an even quicker take.  Just buy those fire-roasted canned tomatoes.  We enjoyed the fresh flavors though.  And, they were in the oven doing their slow thing while I did other stuff.  So, so problem.  I served it with a mixed greens salad, topped with some grilled tuna chunks.  We do grill a lot of ahi around here.  Bob's favorite fish.

This goes off to Ruth, who is hosting a huge birthday bash this week over at Presto Pasta Nights.  It is four years now, as of this Friday, March 4th, and one of the longest, continuously running foodie events on the net. Come to the party, and check out all the delicious noodles.

Addendum:  According to Marc at No Recipes, "Karasumi is the Japanese equivalent of Bottarga. It’s made by curing the roe sac of mullet in salt over the span of a couple weeks. This dries out the roe, intensifying it’s flavors while preserving it." Looks like I'll have to see if the price compares and how it tastes.  For my future research and development Dept.


Swathi said...

I like Mario's recipe as he makes with so ease. This pasta sounds delicious.

Katerina said...

You put such great ingredients in this pasta. Roasted tomatoes are my favorites!

Ruth Daniels said...

You did get me excited about a substitute for bottarga... given that it's hard to come by here in Halifax NS (one Italian market who will order from his distributor in Montreal for $50 for a piece shorter than your forearm!)

That said, your version looks awesome and thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Night's big birthday bash - You've been a great part of the roundups - keep the dishes coming!

Joanne said...

I would have no idea where to find bottarga even if I wanted to, but I think the thought process behind this dish was spot on. I'm sorry it didn't turn out quite the way you wanted it to!

Anonymous said...

I think the mint is a great change / addition to this recipe :)