2.18.10 Something Fishy

Colatura 790 xxx
photo by george billard
Have you discovered colatura di alici, an amber elixir of anchovy made around Italy's Amalfi coast for the last 2,000 years? Slow Food International has officially declared it a "protected" ingredient. (I ordered my first bottle online here.) When anchovies are salted for curing, they’re layered in wooden barrels, then pressed and weighted down. From small holes in the barrels drips this salty, funky syrup—thus the word colatura, from colare, “to drip” in Italian. Somehow, although more concentrated, it’s a bit less overtly fishy than anchovies. And it’s not quite as rank or muddy (or old gym sock-y) as Asian fish sauce—an essential pantry item, by the way. It's the modern version of garum, a fermented fish liquid (sometimes made from just their blood and guts) that was a sort of salt substitute in ancient Rome. The process was so smelly that production was apparently limited to outside the city walls!
Like many fermented products, colatura is rich in amino acids, and of course I've droned on before about the benefits of fish oil. One of the easiest uses for colatura is as a simple sauce. Mix a couple of teaspoons of the stuff with a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and a clove or two of crushed garlic, and use this to flavor swiss chard, broccoli rabe, escarole or potatoes. Or toss it with roasted cauliflower, raisins and pinenuts; or with a few red chile flakes and some cooked pasta, as in the recipe below. Another great way to use it is in a dressing for Caesar salad. I don’t think you’ll ever go back to mere anchovies or anchovy paste once you try this heady brew.

Linguine with Colatura

from Melissa Clark
serves 4-6
  • — 1 pound linguine or spaghetti
  • — 6 tablespoons colatura
  • — 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
  • — 1 packed tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • — 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • — 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • — 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • — 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. In a large bowl, combine colatura, lemon juice, zest, garlic, chile pepper and black pepper.

Drain pasta, and add it to bowl, tossing well. Drizzle in the olive oil and parsley, toss to combine and taste. Add salt if desired. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Download recipe  Download Recipe

Colatura Caesar Dressing

makes a generous 1 cup
  • — 1 clove garlic, minced or smashed to a fine paste
  • — 2 egg yolks
  • — 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • — 2 teaspoons colatura
  • — 2 lemons, juiced and the zest of one
  • — 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • — 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place all the ingredients, except for the olive oil and the cheese, into a blender and process for 15-20 seconds. With the blender still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is nicely emulsified. Blend in the cheese, reserving a bit to sprinkle onto the finished salad. Toss with romaine lettuce, garnish with croutons and serve.

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Oh, that's the kind of fishy I like best! Garum has been slowly working its way into my consciousness for some reason (in a plate o' shrimp kind of way) and colatura has me getting much closer to tasting it's closest cousin. Yum.
Julia on February 18, 2010 at 7:30 am —
Let me know if you drizzle it on anything sometime soon!
laura on February 18, 2010 at 8:09 am —
Have you ever seen how Thai fish sauce is made? It's positively disgusting. But I'd be interested in this less muddier Italian version.
Serena Kim on February 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm —
It's basically made in exactly the same way! Perhaps colatura is more filtered, or maybe the "sunning" stage that Thai fish sauce goes through contributes to its funkier quality.
laura on February 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm —
I just had it on the broccoli rabe. Yum.
G on February 18, 2010 at 2:17 pm —
Wow - this sounds fabulous. I've got to get my hands on some soon - thanks for the introduction to this ingredient!
Jennifer Hess on February 21, 2010 at 11:25 am —
ciao Laura. thank you for talking about colatura. i love this product and use it all the time. but really all the time. the linguine recipe above is what i do very often. easy and delicious. i went to Cetara, the fishing village in the Amalfi cosast, to see how it is made. a lovely video is here http://bit.ly/KNSc1 made by the producers. it is a smelly process, but not dirty. the anchovies are well cleaned and emptied of interiors, before they are put in the salt and to rest for six months in a cool place. grazie!
beatrice ughi on February 26, 2010 at 3:43 pm —
Ciao, Beatrice! Thanks for the information. I went to your site (www.gustiamo.com) and was so impressed, not only with the wonderful products you carry but by the way they are sourced and showcased. The grapefruit marmalade, the preserved pumpkin, the grape elixir from Pantelleria—I can see I have found an amazing new resource!
laura on February 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm —
grazie! i hope we'll talk before you write "how to stock your pantry". would like to tell you about our canned tomatoes, artisanal pasta and ev olive oils. grazie mille!
beatrice ughi on February 28, 2010 at 4:33 am —
OK, I will email you...
laura on February 28, 2010 at 6:38 am —