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COLATURA DI ALICI DI CETARA: TRADITIONAL ITALIAN ANCHOVY ESSENCE FROM THE AMALFI COAST

In the town of Cetara, on the Amalfi Coast, an excellent sauce is obtained from the anchovies: the Colatura di alici. Colatura di Alici translates Anchovies Dripping: the word colatura comes from colare, meaning to drip.
It is an excellent Italian sauce, an anchovy extract whose origins date back to the times of the ancient Romans. Today this delicacy, this anchovy essence, is known all over the world and it is very often included in recipes proposed by starred chefs in their menus.

You can find the original Colatura di Alici di Cetara also online in selected e-commerce, but beware: make sure you buy the one produced strictly in Cetara. Try this authentic Italian food in the most famous recipe, Spaghetti with Colatura di alici di Cetara, and also as a condiment of delicious appetizers, vegetables or tasty main courses!

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COLATURA DI ALICI: ORIGINS AND PARTICULARITIES OF THE ANCHOVY SAUCE FROM CETARA

The Colatura di Alici is an anchovy essence with transparent appearance, slightly amber in colour. It is an anchovy essence characterized by a strong and intense taste. The PAT mark assigned by the Ministry of Agricultural, Environmental and Forestry Policies to this product requires all stages of casting operation to be carried out in Cetara. Therefore, the breeding of anchovies or their fishing (carried out from March 25 to July 22), the processing and packaging must be done there.

It seems that the ancient Romans produced a sauce somehow similar to the Colatura, called Garum, whose recipe has been lost. Towards the second half of the 13th century some Cistercian monks from the Amalfi coast managed to rediscover this kind of preparation during the fishing season. They thus became responsible for his subsequent success. The tradition of anchovy dripping has remained alive especially with the local fishing families.

Garum: ancestor of anchovy dripping

The Garum is an ancient Roman fish sauce that has oriental origins. It was used as a condiment for meat or vegetable dishes. We are aware of the great diffusion of the Garum in the 2nd century BC thanks to the written testimonies of the imperial cook Apicio. At that time the price of this sauce was very high.

To prepare the Garum fish sauce, a layer of herbs and one of anchovies or other small fish and pieces of larger fish were placed in an earthenware vessel, and all was covered with coarse salt.

After one week of rest, it was necessary to stir every day the content for twenty days. Pressing the creamy sauce, a liquid was obtained; the liquid was then filtered more than one time, obtaining the final product.

COLATURA DI ALICI: THE PRODUCTION OF THE ANCHOVY ESSENCE FROM CETARA

Let’s take a look at the production of this very special fish sauce recipe. How is this anchovy essence made?
The traditional procedure to prepare this delicious Italian sauce in Cetara provides the following steps:

  • cleaning the anchovies, removing the head and the entrails;
  • letting the fish rest for 24 hours in containers full of sea salt;
  • placing alternate layers of anchovies and salt inside small wooden barrels called terzigni;
  • covering the fish and salt layers with a wooden disc, and placing a weight on top to put pressure.

The liquid that acts as a base for the Colatura comes out little by little. It is then poured into glass containers exposed to direct sunlight to evaporate the water. After complete maturation of the anchovies in the terzigno (which takes about 4 – 5 months), the liquid is poured again into the small wooden barrel to become tastier. Finally, it is collected from a small hole at the bottom of the wooden barrel and it is filtered with a special fabric. The Colatura di alici di Cetara is ready!

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HOW TO COOK WITH COLATURA DI ALICI

Towards the mid-sixteenth century AD, pasta makers from Amalfi, Minori and Atrani started the use of long pasta throughout the region. This soon became the ideal ally in recipes with the Colatura di alici.

Colatura is also great when used on boiled vegetables like potatoes or cauliflower and on some fish dishes that pair with its strong taste.

If you want to prepare an excellent homemade pasta with anchovy essence, here are the key points of one of the easiest and most widespread recipes:

  • the pasta should be cooked al dente, and without salt in the water because of the strong taste of the sauce;
  • after draining pasta, dress your spaghetti in the pan together with a spoonful of Colatura di alici di Cetara, two tablespoons of cooking water, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chilli pepper at will;
  • serve the pasta with Colatura in dishes.

How much anchovy essence do I have to use as a condiment?

The pouring quantities to be used are in relation to those of the pasta and to the portions to be served.

In this regard, there are two different schools of thought!

Some, more cautiously, believe that this anchovy essence should be added in drops and little by little, depending on your liking. In fact, if you have a very sensitive palate it is better not to overdo it, given its intense flavor.

Others, more loyal to tradition, use the golden rule of the spoon for the pot: a teaspoon of Colatura di alici di Cetara for each diner plus one. As in every circumstance related to personal taste, the advice is to try and discover what’s right for you. In this case, we’re sure you will not mind doing some experiments!

COLATURA DI ALICI DI CETARA: PROPERTIES

The anchovy is rich in proteins and unsaturated fatty acids; anchovies contain calcium, iron, sodium, phosphorus and free amino acids, quickly assimilated by the body. These particular properties are also due to the process of cell disruption that occurs during the fermentation of the fish.

The Colatura di alici is rich in sodium, and it contains a small quantity of calcium, iron, ,and other minerals.

This anchovy essence contains only traces of amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol and water-soluble or fat-soluble vitamins.  It also contains Sphingosine, an alcohol that acts as a precursor for the Sphingomyelin, Gangliosides and Cerebrosides.

It is true that in a spoon of Colatura di alici di Cetara there is just a little quantity of nutrients that are beneficial for the body… but the mood will certainly benefit greatly!

Main Sources:

  • https://www.colaturadialici.it/
  • https://www.costieraamalfitana.com/

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