Pasta and Fish Roe: Sardinia's Mac and Cheese

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Happily, the whole thing is extremely simple. The olive oil goes into a warm but not super hot sauté pan. Add a bit of the sun dried garlic. I'm not the hugest garlic eater so I don't put a lot in, but you can add as much as you like. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. I've been cooking it increasingly al dente and liking it all the more for that. When the pasta is a minute or so away from being done, add a teaspoon or so per person of ground bottarga to the warm oil. You don't want to really cook the bottarga—just heat it and infuse its flavor into the olive oil.

As soon as the pasta is done (very al dente), add it to the garlic and oil in the sauté pan. Add another teaspoonful of bottarga per person and your chopped arugula or parsley, a good dose of Marash pepper flakes (terrific red pepper from Turkey), and a bit more of the olive oil. Toss well so it's really hot but don't cook too long. Serve as is, maybe with a bit of olive oil drizzled on top. People can add more bottarga at the table too, of course. That's it. The kind of thing that takes 15 minutes to make, tastes great, and is good for you.

Lori Farris told me this dish is basically "the macaroni and cheese of Sardinia," which I think puts it in context, and helps explain why it's now on my list of easy-to-make-after-a-long-day-at-work types of dishes. It also explains why there are dozens of variations out there. Efisio has one where he adds fresh ricotta, which makes the dish much richer but still very good. You can also add a bit of roasted red pepper. Many people use half butter and half olive oil.

You get the idea though—you can riff off it any way you like. I'm sure every Sardinian household probably had its own version of the dish, and I'm sure every Sardinian kid is probably loyal to the way he or she grew up eating it.

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Ari Weinzweig is co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also the author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. More

After graduating from University of Michigan with a degree in Russian history, Ari Weinzweig went to work washing dishes in a local restaurant and soon discovered that he loved the food business. Along with his partner Paul Saginaw, Ari started Zingerman's Delicatessen in 1982 with a $20,000 bank loan, a staff of two, a small selection of great-tasting specialty foods, and a relatively short sandwich menu. Today, Zingerman's is a community of businesses that employs over 500 people and includes a bakery, creamery, sit-down restaurant, training company, coffee roaster, and mail order service. Ari is the author of the best-selling Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and the forthcoming Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon.
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