August is upon us. It beckons us to the sea, away from steamy city dwellings. Tourists and locals depart for the famous beaches of the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Sardegna just to name a few. Francesco and I head to off the beaten path seaside destinations known equally for their beaches and culinary specialities. The tiny fishing village of Cetara is on our list. Located on the Amalfi Coast, it is rarely visited by tourists who speedily drive by to other picturesque and overcrowded towns. Although the beach front is minuscule, the water is crystal clear and Cetara is known for its exceptional seafood and colatura di alici (fermented anchovies likened to Roman garum). The essence of anchovy is the taste that I’m after.
Simply put the fishy sauce is made by aging anchovies in salt. Caught between April and August, the fresh fish are immediately layered with salt and placed in wood barrels. The barrels are topped with a weighted cover. As the weight gently presses the anchovies an amber liquid is produced. It is naturally preserved by the exposure to sunlight. Once the fish is aged, the liquid is poured back into the barrels to intensify the flavor before it drips out from an opening at the bottom of the barrel. The entire process takes 4-5 months.
The most popular colatura centric dish is spaghetti mixed with the sauce, olive oil and crushed garlic cloves. We add a few salted anchovies and parsley to the mix. I also drip it over boiled potatoes.
Where to order colatura di alici:
Closing image © Simon Johnson for www.simonjohnson.com – all other photography: Gina Tringali