When I say that Italian food cannot be reduced to just a few dishes because it’s way more complex and regional, I mean there are lots of very local and traditional recipes you will find only in specific areas in Italy. This spaghetti with colatura di alici are one interesting example of this. They’re traditionally from Cetara, a small village in the Amalfi Coast, and they’re so local they’re not very well known outside of that area and outside of Italy. Let me explain what the Colatura di alici di Cetara is and then the recipe of the spaghetti with colatura di alici di Cetara.
The colatura di alici or anchovy extract is made in Cetara, a small place near Amalfi and to be made the artisans have to follow a few precise rules so that the colatura will be perfect and guaranteed.
The anchovies are in fact fished, from late March to early July every year, using the lampara (a lamp which is used to lighten up the surface of the water to attract the fishes and then trap them into a grid.
After having been deprived of the head and the internal parts, the anchovies are immediately placed in salt then, after 24 hours, they’re moved into a small wooden barrel in layers.
The barrel is then closed and pressed with weights that over the months will allow the release of the liquid. The casting is transferred into the bottles and exposed to the sun to make the water evaporate.
The final phase is catered at around the beginning of November when the liquid is put back into wooden barrels where, in contact with the anchovies, acquires a peculiar taste and, once filtered, the typical amber color that characterizes the colatura.
Colatura is quite expensive because the process of preparation and its meticulousness require a lot of experience, needed to preserve the tradition. It is no coincidence that the colatura is also art of the slow food movement.
Buying a low cost colatura means you’re not buying a good one so even if it will cost a bit more, try to use the good colatura. The followings are bottles of colatura di alici I use myself and you can find on Amazon.
Despite the fact in this recipe I’m cooking the sauce, it can also be raw and when your spaghetti will be ready you can serve them with some pine nuts to give crunchiness. In Cetara this recipe is traditionally made for Christmas Eve and it’s a tribute to the hard work and the tradition. There’s also an annual festival in Cetara, at the beginning of December, to celebrate the worldwide loved colatura di alici.
400 grams of spaghetti
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons anchovy extract
4 fillets of anchovies(optional)
1. Chop the anchovies (if used) and stir fry in the extra virgin olive oil with the chopped parsley, the garlic and the chilli. Add the anchovy extract. If you do not use the fillets of anchovies, prepare the sauce by following the same procedure but without anchovies.
2. Cook the spaghetti al dente with no salt then drain, toss with the sauce and serve immediately.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
[Pics by Giuseppe]