My sister Michele and I have written recently about Italy’s region of Marche, the birthplace of our paternal grandfather Guiseppe. Le Marche is truly one of the still-not-too-touristy regions of Italy. While the seaside is jammed with European tourists in the summer, the rest of the year it’s a quiet and peaceful place stretching from the Adriatic Sea east, deep into rugged mountains.
During our visit last October to this region, we stayed in the tiny village of San Marcello. As in most small Italian villages, San Marcello boasts a couple very good restaurants. One of these is La Lanterna da Ciro, where I had this wonderful pasta dish. I asked (via Facebook) for the recipe, and Ciro Farella was good enough fill me in on his secret.
The key ingredient to this dish is the bottarga, which is salted and cured fish roe (fish eggs), typically from grey mullet or tuna. You can find it in whole form and grate it with a microplane zester, or the powdered form is also available. I found bottarga locally at Guidi Marcello in Santa Monica. It’s also available on Amazon.com.
The other secret of this dish is using the pasta shape paccheri. It’s sort of a giant rigatoni. It can be found in many specialty stores. It takes a LONG time to cook. The package I recently bought indicated a 16-minute cook time but it actually took more like 18 minutes. So plan to lose a few pieces for testing.
This recipe serves 4 as a first course.
Ingredients and Directions:
- 250 kg of paccheri
- Very good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of grated bottarga
- 1 tablespoon of minced parsley
- A small pinch of red chili flakes
- 1 lime zested (zest reserved) and ready to be juiced
- Salt and pepper
- Microplane zester
- Citrus juicer
- Set up a large pot of salted water and bring to boil. Cook the paccheri per the package directions. Test near the finish time and add more time if there is any hint of raw white in a cross-section of a piece of paccheri.
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. In a large sauté pan, warm a quarter-cup of olive oil. Add the grated bottarga, parsley and red chili flakes and let them meld with the oil. Season with a little salt and pepper.
- Juice the lime into the sauce and taste for seasoning. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain and place in the saucepan and toss the pasta and the sauce and stir for 1 minute.
- Plate the pasta and garnish with the zested lime. Serve.