How to Cook Tuna Roe


Tuna roe is essentially a sac of fish eggs until you cure it, then it's called bottarga, the Mediterranean creation made famous by the Italians. Tuna roe cooks chemically with enzyme action via a salt cure, which denatures its proteins like heat does. Despite its exotic-sounding name, bottarga is about as simple and rustic as food gets, and you find it's just as prolific in pop-up fish stands along the Mediterranean coastline as it is in high-end American restaurants. You only need two ingredients to make tuna roe at home: salt and time.

Things You'll Need

  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • Mix a 5-percent brine and soak the roe in it for 24 hours in the refrigerator. One half-cup of kosher salt to 1 gallon of water is standard.

  • Drain the brine from the roe and place the roe on a few paper towels. Gently blot the roe dry with paper towels.

  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Pour about 1 inch of kosher salt in a shallow dish.

  • Lay the roe in the shallow dish and cover the tops of them with a heavy layer of kosher salt. Turn the roe over in the salt a few times until they're covered with a 1/4-inch-thick layer of kosher salt. No part of the roe should be exposed to the air.

  • Lay the salt-covered roe on the baking sheet. Space the masses about 1 inch apart.

  • Place the roe in a cool, dry room that gets good air flow. Check the tuna roe every couple days and change out the paper towels for dry when saturated.

  • Sprinkle a fresh layer of kosher salt on the roe when you change the paper towels. You'll notice the moisture decreases the more the roe cures, a sign they're hardening. You can use the bottarga when feels hard to the touch, like a cured sausage. Sometimes it takes a week to cure the bottarga to firmness, sometimes it takes a month. You can eat the bottarga after 1 week of curing, but let it cure until it feels like you can grate it without it crumbling apart. You can't cure the bottarga too long, but the flavor concentrates the longer you do.

  • Scrape the salt from the bottarga when you're ready to use it. Cut a small piece off and grate it on a rasp, zester or cheese grater to use as a garnish on pasta or other dishes. You can also slice it thinly and add it to salads or incorporate it into an antipasto.

Tips & Warnings

  • Store bottarga in an airtight container or bag up to 1 year. Store bottarga you've cut into or partially grated in an airtight container or bag for up to 2 weeks.

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