Bottarga, pressed and salted tuna or mullet roe, may be the most under-appreciated delicacy on Earth. It's expensive, but can be used in small amounts to great effect. And while whole-wheat pasta often gets panned for being coarse, it's the perfect choice here.
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
12 garlic cloves, peeled, split lengthwise, and germ removed
1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
2 cups thinly shaved fennel
1 cup thinly shaved sweet onion
about 1/4 cup very thinly sliced Fresno chile
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 ounce finely grated bottarga
How to Make It
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, toast the breadcrumbs about 3 minutes, allowing a small amount to go just beyond toasted--to almost but not quite charred.
While the crumbs are still slightly warm, transfer to a small bowl and combine with the lemon zest and the fresh oregano.
Place the oil and butter in a bowl large enough to hold a pound of fully cooked pasta. Set aside for now.
COOK THE PASTA
Bring a large pot of water (about 12 quarts) to a full rolling boil. Add the ground red pepper. Add the garlic cloves. Yes, the garlic cloves. To the water.
Get the water moving with a wooden spoon. Stir to create a gentle circular current.
Gently slide the pasta into the pot about 1/4 pound at a time to avoid clumping.
Stir to ensure that the spaghetti strands are free-swimming and separated.
Boil the pasta vigorously (about 4 minutes, or for about half the time recommended on package).
ADD VEGGIES TO THE POT OF COOKING PASTA (FOR REAL)
Now, stir the fennel, the onion, and the red chile into the boiling pasta. Cook for the remaining time recommended on your pasta package, or for another 5 minutes or so.
Test the pasta for doneness. Taste it. Don't throw it. That's just silly. The finished pasta should be toothsome, meaning there's a little chew to it, not a crunch.
Drain the pasta and vegetable mixture into a colander. Shake once. Twice. Three times. Don't dare rinse. Please. Let it sit for 2 minutes, giving it a visit with a wooden spoon. Explore. Fold. Combine. Be gentle.
FINISH WITH A TOUCH OF FAT, ACID, HERBS, AND CRUNCH
Now, while the pasta is still steaming hot, transfer to the bowl containing the butter and oil. Toss well. Add the lemon juice. Toss again. Season with the salt. Toss again. Slowly walk around your kitchen with the pasta bowl, waving the aroma toward your nose. Look serious. People will admire you.
Now, add the parsley to the breadcrumbs. Toss. You're adding the parsley now so you can get the perfect juxtaposition of toasty and grassy. Otherwise, it might seem muddy. Your garnish is now ready.
Distribute the pasta among 6 shallow pasta bowls. Use tongs to twirl and stack. It looks pro that way.
Garnish each bowl with a small mound of the shaved bottarga, and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly among the bowls. Serve immediately. Encourage your guests to stir the garnish into their pasta before eating.
Cooking Light Mad Delicious
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