Mentaiko Pasta (Cod Roe Pasta)

Mentai Pasta

When it comes to pasta’s I like simplicity that highlights the quality of a few fresh ingredients. Mentaiko Pasta (明太子パスタ) is about as simple as it gets and yet there’s something fun about an Italian inspired Japanese dish (… or is it the other way around?)

Mentaiko is made by brining and seasoning fresh pollack or cod roe, which gives it a pink color. Unlike bottarga, it’s not dried, so the tiny eggs make a creamy sauce when added to hot pasta. The creamy olive oil tames the spicy brine of the mentaiko, while the shiso offers up some herbaceous notes that contrast nicely with the intense essence of the sea.

Mentai Pasta

If you’re not much of a seafood fan, this is one you may want to skip, but if you love anchovies or bottarga in your pasta, this should be right up your ally. You can get mentaiko at Japanese or Korean markets (where it’s called myeongran jeot) and the shiso should be available at most Japanese grocery stores. If you’re having trouble finding it, try buying some from your local sushi joint (shiso is that green leaf that often comes as a garnish for sashimi).

When preparing this pasta, be sure you use a mild creamy olive oil. Grassy or spicy olive oils tend to clash with the roe making it taste bitter (kind of like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth). You can always test for this by mixing a small amount and tasting it. If you can’t seem to find an olive oil that works, you can always just use regular vegetable oil. I also like adding a bit of butter in to make the pasta a bit more creamy, but if you’re worried about the fat, you can leave it out.

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    Mentaiko Pasta
  • A simple Japanese-style pasta sauced with olive oil and spicy cod roe. This version is creamy and briny and can be prepared in minutes.
ServingsPrep TimeCook Time
6 people 5 minutes 10 minutes


  • 1/2 cup karashi mentaiko spicy code roe
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mild flavor, not spicy or green
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 450 grams dried spaghetti or other pasta boiled according to package directions
  • 2 tablespoons butter - unsalted cut into a couple slices
  • 6 leaves green shiso rolled then sliced thin
  • 1/4 sheet nori cut into thin strips with scissors
Servings: people


  1. If you get your mentaiko (a.k.a. spicy cod or pollack roe) in a jar you can just measure it out into a bowl. Otherwise cut each roe sac in half and squeeze out the roe from each half, discarding the membrane.
  2. Add the olive oil and black pepper and stir to combine. Meanwhile boil a large pot of well salted water and cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  3. When the pasta is done, drain thoroughly and add to the bowl with the mentaiko sauce. Add the butter and toss until the butter is melted and you have an even coating of sauce on each strand of pasta. Serve immediately, garnished with shiso and nori.
  • Jan Bennett

    This looks delicious!

  • Qotu1979

    I love mentaiko pasta. I’ve tried the packaged kind before and it wasn’t too good. I know now to always go with fresh for this dish. Thanks for the post.

  • Elisa

    Hi Marc this sounds really great! I never had mentaiko pasta, but it happened many times that my father and his friends went fishing and caught big fishes with their roe, so we cooked them with spaghetti, garlic and parsley

  • Priscilla M

    I LOVE bottarga in my pasta. This variation sounds really delicious, will definitely try this. Thanks :)

  • Hollow Legs

    wow – this looks amazing. I am now on the mentaiko hunt in London

  • suki

    This was my favorite dish to order at “On the Bridge” in Japantown! :) Now I can make it!

  • Sharon Cheng

    Made this tonight, it was great! The shiso really does add a nice flavor touch. 

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  • M_bawdon

    Mmm that looks and sounds perfect.
    Think you could use smoked roe?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I don’t see why not. With dryer roes (like bottarga), you’ll want to grate it first.

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  • Inhae Inés Koo

    I’ve made something similar with myeongranjeot (Korean-style preserved cod roe) in a carbonara base. Yummy!

  • lilmonstrita

    I love this dish.  I personally prefer it using all butter, no olive oil. 

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  • yasudaaa

    Yabaii~!!!!! chooooo oishsou~!!!! I miss eating eating mentaii ko!!

  • jen i

    I found your blog a few days ago and have since devoured every recipe, every picture and anecdote. Thank you for such a rad blog. I’m planning on making this this weekend for my Japanese husband. Hopefully, he approves. :) Please keep writing and taking gorgeous pictures!

  • Andrey Tupkalo

    You can also use canned pollock roe that could be bought in any russian shop. It has a comewhat different spices, but is already pretty creamy, as it’s usually used as a sandwich spread. With pure butter it works wonders in mentaiko pasta, though the olive oil makes it a bit too sharp.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!