Leftovers Makeover: From Sushi, to Squid Ink Penne Pasta with Uni Butter

Leftovers Makeover: From Sushi, to Squid Ink Penne Pasta with Uni Butter

Uni Butter Penne3
Squid Ink Penne Pasta with Uni Butter.


Purple Sea Urchin
The gloves are not just for the strong fashion statement. A Purple Sea Urchin’s spines contain poison that can cause a blood infection.

Not everyone likes sea urchin. They look pretty creepy, I admit, poisonous spines and all. The more you learn about them, the less appetizing they seem. After all, that “roe” you are eating is actually their gonads. The japanese call this edible section of the sea hedgehog “Uni”. I love Uni, the creamy texture and delicate flavor of the sea are perfectly balanced in my opinion. In the US it is considered a delicacy and is usually pretty expensive. In the Philippines, with its boundless seafood selections, it seems they are giving it away. I was shocked the first time I ordered a sashimi combination, because I was used to a serving of 4 pieces of Uni. The mountain of urchin I recieved dominated the plate and I couldn’t even finish everything.


Since Uni doesn’t keep long, especially after leaving the refrigerator, I found the best way to keep it around is to turn it into Uni butter. Now this is great on anything from toast to steaks, but my favorite way to use it is for pasta sauce.  The flavor of Uni is already so complex you really would be over complicating such a beautifully simple dish to add anything beyond just a few key ingredients. If you cook Uni in its natural form it turns into a tough rubber band. If it’s too cold when it hits the butter it forms clumps. To avoid this, start with room temperature butter and room temperature Uni. This simple recipe takes about 15 minutes from start to finish.

Squid Ink Penne Pasta with Uni Butter Sauce

  • ½ cup sea urchin roe, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sliced spring onions. Fresh sorrel or basil are wonderful substitutes.
  • 2 servings squid ink pasta
  • 1/2 lemon, seeds and zest removed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature 
"The better the butter, the better your sauce."
“The better the butter, the better your sauce.”
Pass the Uni through a strainer for a consistent sauce.
Pass the Uni through a fine strainer for a smoother, more consistent sauce.

-For the Uni butter: Puree the Uni in a food processor or blender. Pass it through a fine-mesh sieve, and return to the food processor. Add the softened butter and puree. If you made a lot, you can refrigerate the extra Uni butter.

-To create the Uni butter pasta sauce: Warm about 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan, do not boil. Gradually whisk in the sea urchin butter, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.

Put the herbs in a medium stainless steel bowl, add the warmed sauce and stir. Taste, then season with salt and pepper if necessary. Add the pasta and toss gently. Squeeze the lemon juice over the noodles and serve immediately.

Squid Ink Penne, Spring Onions, and Lemon Zest
Squid Ink Penne with Spring Onions, and Lemon Zest.


Uni Butter Penne2
I added fresh ground black and pink peppercorns, and a sprinkle of sea salt flakes to finish this off. Easy on the salt though, the Uni is salty by itself.


Uni Butter Penne1
Uni, Butter, Penne. Simply Delicious.


I adapted this recipe from a few pointers I begged from a waitress at Sun of a Gun seafood restaurant in Los Angeles. Their linguine and clams dish has a Uni based sauce to die for.

I did not take the live sea urchin photo, all the credit goes to wikipedia for that. Although I have handled and opened live urchin in the past, I never had a camera ready.

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