Spaghetti Vongole, a Dash of Dolce Vita, and the Taste of the Mediterranean

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Last weekend, as I strolled down Berlin’s Kantstraße, a culinary escapade led me to Mitte Meer. Known as THE go-to spot for Mediterranean foods and delicacies in Berlin, Mitte Meer captivates with its array of sun-soaked delights, including a remarkable fresh fish counter.

Enthralled by the culinary treasures around me, I found myself grabbing Orecchiette, Paccheri, Moroccan preserved lemons, and fragrant young garlic. Amidst these treasures, I found plump Venus clams. The decision practically made itself. Accompanied by a fine bottle of olive oil, white wine, and Bottarga di Muggine, the stage was set for a culinary short trip into the Mediterranean.

Bottarga, often referred to as “Sardinian Gold,” is crafted primarily from the roe of the grey mullet (Bottarga di muggine). Although versions exist using tuna (Bottarga di tonno) or swordfish roe (Bottarga di pesce spada). It’s essential to note that Bottarga is not caviar.

Legend attributes its creation to the Phoenicians, who utilized the protein-rich fish eggs as sustenance during their long sea voyages. Thanks to bottarga’s remarkable durability, it could last for months. Even the Romans valued the dried roe across the entire Mediterranean.

Bottarga production involves approximately 40 manual steps. First, it’s rubbed with coarse sea salt. Then the roe is pressed between two wooden boards, assuming a bread-loaf-like shape. Then, it basks in the sun, drying for up to two weeks. Finally, the Bottarga is immersed in heated beeswax, acquiring a protective and preservative wax coating, ensuring the robust flavor of fresh fish persists.

Distinguished by its amber hue, grey mullet Bottarga has a milder taste compared to the slightly pinkish tuna variation, which boasts a more pronounced flavor. In Italy, Bottarga often graces tables as an antipasto, served in thin slices, paired with tomatoes, lemons, and a drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil. Alternatively, it may elevate pasta dishes when grated, similar to Parmesan #umamibomb!

Spaghetti Con le Vongole e Bottarga

Spaghetti Vongole with Bottarga
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2

Equipment

  • Chopping knife and board
  • Large cooking pot
  • 2 Large pans plus lids
  • Colander

Ingredients
  

  • 1 kg Fresh vongole
  • 5 cloves fresh young garlic
  • 1 Moroccan preserved lemon alt. organic lemon
  • 1 splash Dry white wine
  • 1 pinch Dried chili flakes
  • 150 ml Fruity olive oil
  • ½ bunch fresh curly parsley
  • 250 g Spaghetti
  • Bottarga di Muggine
  • Salt

Instructions
 

  • Cleaning the clams:
    Place the clams in a large bowl, covering them entirely with cold water, add 2 tablespoons of salt.
    Let the clams sit for about 20 minutes to expel any sand. After 20 minutes, drain the clams in a colander, rinse with cold water, and repeat the process with fresh water.
  • Prep:
    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the spaghetti. Add salt to the boiling water.
    Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Wash the parsley and chop it finely.
    Finely chop the preserved lemon and set aside.
  • The sauce:
    Cover the bottom of a large, deep pan entirely with olive oil, at least 3 ml deep, and slowly heat it.
    Sauté the garlic in the oil for about 5-10 minutes, ensuring it doesn't brown. Add chili flakes to taste, then set the pan aside.
    In your other pan, heat a splash of oil again.
    Drain the clams, rinse them, and add them to the hot oil.
    Deglaze with a generous splash of white wine. Cover with a lid and cook the clams until they have fully open, stirring occasionally. After about 5-10 minutes, or when no more clams open, discard any unopened clams, and transfer the open clams to the deep pan with the garlic-oil mixture. Add the broth from the clam pan. Mix everything thoroughly and let it simmer gently.
    Add the chopped preserved lemon.
  • The spaghetti:
    Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the package instructions.
    Drain the spaghetti a minute before the end of the cooking time, preserve one ladle of pasta water and add it to your clams, then season your clam sauce to taste.
    Fold the spaghetti into the clams, let it sit for a minute.
    Serve the pasta and clams on deep plates, sprinkle with parsley, and grate the Bottarga generously over the pasta.

In this recipe, Bottarga takes center stage, enhancing the flavors of Spaghetti Vongole with that additional umami kick. For those unable to find Vongole but eager to try Bottarga, a simple Spaghetti alio e olio suffices—just grate the Bottarga on top! Simple yet utterly delicious!

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