How to make Bottarga at home

How to make Bottarga at home

Here’s what bottarga is and how to make it at home.

In this article, I will explain what Bottarga is, and how to make it at home with simple steps.

Do you know what the Bottarga is?

Well, continue reading to find out how to make at home one of the finest ingredient of Italian cuisine. That will enrich with a unique aroma and flavor all your fish dishes.



What is the Bottarga?

How producers make bottarga.

The types of Bottarga.

How to make bottarga at home.

What you need to make bottarga at home

How to eat Bottarga.

What is the Bottarga?

Bottarga is a traditional food product typical of the Mediterranean coasts.

Made of grey mullet or tuna roe, salted, cured and aged in the ovarian sac for a few months.

It is an ancient method of preparation over 3000 years old. A method used by the Phoenicians and other civilizations that developed on the Mediterranean coasts.

The best quality bottarga it’s the one made with grey mullet roe produced in Italy especially in Sardinia and Tuscany.

While the tuna bottarga, less valuable than that of the grey mullet it is made on the Sicilian and Sardinian islands.

For centuries it has been a poor ingredient derived from fish waste. Nowadays it has become one of the finest ingredients of the Italian gastronomic tradition. Many starred chefs use it in their expensive menus, adding an extra aroma and flavor to their dishes.

sardinian bottarga
Bottarga di Muggine ( Grey Mullet ) Source Wikimedia Common

Bottarga is quite expensive cured seafood, the price of the bottarga can vary from 70 to 300 euros per kilo. This because of the specific process used to get it, and also because there are very few producers in Italy. On the market, we can find it whole or already grated in a glass jar.

How producers make bottarga.

The Bottarga production process comprises four main phases. Extraction, salting, pressing, and aging the roe pouch. It has a cylindrical shape and has a variable weight, depending on the species of fish.

For example, the roe pouch of an Atlantic bluefin tuna or a yellowfin tuna can weigh even over 1 kg. While the roe pouch of a grey mullet the weight varies from 200 to 500 grams.

The first phase of production of the bottarga, is the most delicate and it is the extraction of the roe pouch.

Expert hands extract the pouch from the fish belly with extreme care so as not to damage the bag that contains the roe.

grey mullet roe
Grey mullet roe
Source Wikimedia Common

Immediately, they wash it in ice water to avoid the development of pathogenic bacteria during the next stages.

After washing, the following phases begin. The processing between grey mullet bottarga and tuna bottarga is a bit different.

Let’s see how.

The processing of grey mullet bottarga.

They sprinkle the grey mullet roe pouch with coarse sea salt, massaging the entire surface. The product is maintained on a horizontal wooden surface and is turned twice a day, adding more salt for several days.

Then the bottarga is ready for pressing. The period of this phase varies depending on the weight. It is necessary to ensure the drainage of the liquid inside the roe bag.

Watch this video to understand how traditional grey mullet bottarga is produced in Italy.

The processing of tuna bottarga.

The tuna bottarga, as we said, has a higher weight. The first phase after washing is pressing which varies from 2 to 4 days. Also, in this case, it serves to remove part of the liquid contained in the bag. After salting, the producers make a second pressing for 8 to 10 days, also this time with a constant change of salt.

The difference in processing between the two types of bottarga is the number of pressing.

For the tuna bottarga, there are two (before and after salting). While for grey mullet bottarga only one, which lasts about 2 weeks, from the first salting.

The last stage is drying. The producers hang the bottarga on the ceilings of the well-ventilated aging chambers and leave it to dry and age.

The aging time varies 30-40 days for the tuna bottarga and 45-90 days for the grey mullet bottarga. This time may vary depending on humidity and temperature conditions.

The types of Bottarga.

After understanding how manufacturers make bottarga that we find on the market, let’s review the most common types of bottarga.

The Bottarga di Muggine ( Grey mullet) also known as Sardinian gold is the most valuable and expensive. It has an amber color and a strong and at the same time very delicate taste. It is mainly produced in Sardinia and Tuscany.

Bottarga of Tuna: it is less precious, its color often varies from light pink to brownish. It has a much more intense flavor than grey mullet bottarga and a much harder consistency. The tuna bottarga is mainly produced in Sicily and Calabria.

Source Wikimedia Common

In the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, we find another excellence: the swordfish bottarga. It has a lighter color and an intermediate intensity between the intense flavor of the tuna bottarga and the delicate flavor of the mullet.

How to make bottarga at home

I specify that to make bottarga at home we do not necessarily need gray mullet or tuna roe. Those of sea bass, mackerel, grouper works well too. Perhaps it will not be as valuable as that of gray mullet or tuna, but it will be equally tasty and above all cheaper.

So the next time you go to your fishmonger to buy a fish, look carefully when the fishmonger cleans it. Ask him if he can open the fish’s belly without letting the scissors or knife blades go too deep. if you are lucky to find a female fish, you may find the roe pouch inside.

Don’t throw it away!

It is what you need to make your bottarga at home.

Ask the fishmonger to gently pull it out without breaking it.

Now you can make your own bottarga at home.

Here is what you need to make bottarga at home:

A fresh and intact roe pouch ( about 300-400 gr. ).

Coarse sea salt (you’ll need a lot).

Once at home, carefully wash the roe pouch with ice water.

Be careful not to break the bag.

Slowly massage the pouch to eliminate any air inside.

Take a ceramic or pyrex container capable of holding the pouch.

Put a layer of salt (about 1 inch) in the container, place the pouch on top and cover completely with another layer of salt.

Cover the container with a lid or cling film and place it in a dark and cool place. No in the fridge!

After 24 hours, remove the bottarga and clean it gently with dry cloth from the wet salt that remains attached. Throw away the wet salt from the container.

Then repeat the step above. Put another layer of clean salt in the container, the bottarga, and then cover it with more salt. Cover with a lid and put the container back in the same place.

Repeat this for 7 days.

After a week you will notice that the bottarga has dried out.

With a little patience, clean the bottarga of any salt residue always using a dry cloth.

Do not use wet cloths otherwise you have lost all the work done.

Now tie the bottarga with a string and hang it on the ceiling in a cool and ventilated place (the cellar would be ideal) for 4-5 days.

Your homemade bottarga is ready.

When you will eat it, and discover its flavor, you will be proud to say “Now I know how to make bottarga at home”!

How to eat bottarga.

Before using bottarga remember to remove the skin.

There are several traditional ways and recipes to use bottarga.

The most used and known method of eating bottarga is to grate it on fish dishes or vegetables. As you do with cheese.

With the bottarga, you can make the delicious Spaghetti alla Bottarga. You can also enrich the flavor of other fish dishes such as Linguine alle Vongole, Seafood Risotto or Pasta with Squid.

It is excellent for enriching appetizers such as swordfish carpaccio and seafood salad.

To fully enjoy it, try to eat it alone. Cut it into very thin slices, season it with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, a drop of lemon juice and serve it on slices of toasted bread. You can also try it on a bruschetta with grilled vegetables and bottarga flakes. Delicious!

Now you know how to make your own bottarga in the simplest way obtaining a great result.




6 thoughts on “How to make Bottarga at home”

  • What would the highest ambient temperature be that I could make bottarga?
    I live in Thailand which is always hot 90°f/32°C on average everyday. There is no 68°/20° cool season of any kind.
    Thanks for any tips.

    • Hi Eric,
      Thank you for your comment.
      I know Thailand very well. I know very well how hot it is. You should find the coolest part of the house, even artificially ventilated, for example, a fan or an air conditioner. However, avoid direct airflow. The bottarga must dry slowly otherwise it will dry out too much and it will become too hard. Try and let me know.

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