Working Girl Dinners: Spaghetti with Tobiko and Herbs (yes, that pasta with fish eggs!)

RECIPE: Spaghetti with Tobiko and Herbs
Tobiko Pasta

Tobiko Pasta

This is one of my favorite dishes of all time.  I got a ton of friends and readers telling me that they loved the Cheapskate Spaghetti.  This is like Cheapskate Spaghetti–goes to Japan.

I was at the restaurant Basta Pasta in New York with three of my best friends.  I seem to have been the last person on earth to go there, but I’d been hearing about the place for years because they do one of those hot pasta dishes tossed in a hollow Parmesan wheel.  And those are always a show stopper.  But I didn’t realize that the point of the whole place is this Japanese Italian fusion.  And before you judge pasta with sea urchin in a pink sauce, let me just tell you it is heart stopping–so special and different and wonderful and complex.

This pasta, Spaghetti with Tobiko and Herbs, is based on the pasta I had a Basta Pasta that night: spaghetti tossed with tobiko (flying fish eggs, like on the outside of your California Roll) and shiso, a Japanese herb that falls somewhere between mint and basil.  I know, it sounds coo coo for Coco Puffs crazy.  But it is kind of like a much more delicate, sweeter, fresher version of spaghetti with clam sauce.  The fish row bursts ever so slightly in your mouth, and has that unmitigated flavor of the sea.  The shiso (or in our case, the mint and basil) counters it with a tremendous garden freshness.  And the easy butter sauce is so simple and elegant and good.  Good thing I asked the waiter what was in it!  Honestly, I can’t stop making this dish.  It’s weird, but that’s what makes it special.  And the fact that it’s even cheaper and easier than everyone’s favorite Cheapskate Pasta–well, that just speaks volumes.  You have to try this.  You won’t be able to stop eating it, and no one will be able to believe that you made it!

Spaghetti with Tobiko and Herbs
serves 4


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 pound spaghetti rigati (recommended: Barilla)*

  • ½ cup clam juice

  • ⅓ cup tobiko (flying fish roe) or masago**

  • ⅓ cup chiffonade of shiso (or mint and basil)***


Dice the butter, and put it back in the fridge.

Cook the spaghetti in very well salted boiling water until al dente.  Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.

Add the clam juice and reserved pasta water to the empty pasta pot over high heat.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, whisk in the butter, 1 cube at a time, until they are all dissolved into the sauce.  Take the pot off the heat, and toss the pasta with the sauce.  Taste for seasoning, and add salt if you want it.

You can either divvy the pasta up between 4 bowls, and divide the tobiko and herbs on top of the bowls of pasta; or you can toss the tobiko and herbs with the pasta in the pot.  Either way, serve right away!


*I like the spaghetti rigati because each strand holds the sauce and tobiko to it.  But if you can’t find it, just use regular spaghetti, like Basta Pasta does.

**This is those tiny orange fish eggs on the outside of sushi.  I buy it for $1.89 for ⅓ cup at a local Asian market, in the freezer section.  You can also try your local sushi restaurant, or the sushi counter at your supermarket.

***Shiso is an Asian herb that I can’t find.  So I use a mixture of 10 basil leaves and 20 mint leaves.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Watch, Working Girl Dinners

16 Responses to Working Girl Dinners: Spaghetti with Tobiko and Herbs (yes, that pasta with fish eggs!)

  1. Everything about this is genius. GENIUS. Mint+basil to emulate shiso? Love it. Tobiko? So unique! With pasta, I imagine it to be like a milder bottarga AND with texture. Monte-ing pasta water? Have never even thought about it — but I’m totally going to do that now to enrich some basic pasta dishes I make. Amazing post!

  2. Kerry says:

    Thanks!!!!! It is like a milder bottarga, and with that pop. And I love bottarga. We need to get some of that on the blog. Let me know about those sauces with the monté-ed pasta water. I’d love to hear your take!

  3. Elizabeth Hamon says:

    simply LOVE bottarga, which is not easy to find and expensive … excited to make this tres soon, sounds silky, a little salty, but fresh with the herbs … yummm! Thank you!

  4. Lynn says:

    I can’t stand shiso (to me it tastes like dirt), but I LOVE mint and basil, so I will definitely be making this soon!

  5. maria christofi says:

    this recipe is just my kind of thing….i am going to make it TODAY!

    i have a branch of atari ya near me so i’ll go and buy some tobiko from there…i’ll let u know how it goes!

    lovely blog x

  6. maria christofi says:


    i have just devoured my first bowl of spaghetti with tobiko…i think it will be the first of many….this week! it is DELICIOUS!

    I may have a new addiction…i love the sea salty taste. i couldnt find clam juice so i just bought a handful of fresh clams and steamed them in a little water with some chinese rice wine….i added some of the clams to the dish too.

    thank you so much for this special recipe!

    • Kerry says:

      Oh I’m so glad to hear that you love it as much as I do! I’m craving it now! Mmm…it would be DELICIOUS with fresh clams.

      • maria christofi says:

        it is now a serious addiction! i honestly made it about 4 times that week and am due a rerun…;) i made it for my mum ( a massive seafood fan) and she was in raptures over it.

        where do you get clam juice from in london? i’ll look in china town next time im there…any other places?

  7. Yanti says:

    Tried the recipe.. Great…. My daughter loves it……
    I don’t have clam juice so I boil anchovies (small dry fish– “Ikan Bilis” n take the water)
    Thank you Very much……

  8. Kim says:

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but this kind of reminds me of Mentaiko Spaghetti. It’s basically fish roe mixed with softened or melted butter (or half and half or cream) which is then tossed with cooked spaghetti. The difference being that the mentaiko is marinated roe from pollock, it usually comes whole in the roe sacks, and there’s a version of spicy(!) mentaiko (also known as karashi mentaiko). Since you’ve mentioned before that you like things hot, if you can find spicy mentaiko, I highly recommend it. I’ve found it in the fresh fish sections of asian markets but my best friend (a pretty picky eater) tells me that there’s also a prepared version that’ll keep, similar to instant miso soup packages.

    • Kerry says:

      This sounds AMAZING! I had no idea. Thank you so much for the recommendation. I love getting lost in Asian markets–I’m going to do it again now!

  9. Yui says:

    Thank you so much for posting the recipe! I LOVE this dish at Basta Pasta and tried to find the recipe until I found yours! I’ll definitely make this dish soon!..:)

    • Kerry says:

      Basta Pasta’s version is amazing! But I do like this version at home. They told me clam juice is the secret. I hope you enjoy!