I frequently cook with an Italian fish sauce known as colatura di alici, an anchovy extract made by aging anchovies in salt. It is traditionally produced in the small fishing village of Cetara on the Amalfi coast using a method passed down through generations. Although now you can buy versions made in other regions of Italy, including Calabria and Sicily.
That’s a photo of Cetara above that I took while passing by on a ferry.
I love colatura di alici and use it all the time, particularly with vegetables. It provides an umami taste that delivers a more savory salty flavor than salt alone. Umami or savory is the fifth basic taste along with the more familiar sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. Umami is found in meats and broths and also in fermented fish sauces and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It’s also delicious.
The trick is not to use too much colatura di alici unless you want your dish to taste like anchovies. I use it almost daily but only every once in a great while does my boyfriend ask if the dish has colatura in it. That’s the sign that I’ve added too much.
Colatura di alici can be used as the main ingredient in pasta. Here is a classic recipe from the Italian brand Delfino. I also love colatura with all sorts of vegetables and use it with everything from Brussels sprouts to leeks to zucchini.
Recipes made with colatura
- Canned tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and cheese
- Canned tomatoes and garlic
- Leek and potato soup
- Pasta with zucchini
- Roasted Japanese eggplants
Where to buy
Colatura di alici is easy to find in Italian grocery stores, including at Eataly, and in online Italian specialty shops like Alma Gourmet and BuonItalia. Amazon also has a large selection and I even saw some on Walmart‘s website.