Colatura di alici: the secret of Cetara

Published on Oct 19, 2016

The Italian peninsula, in addition to being an amazing country, is a reservoir of extraordinary products.

There are still today places engaged in bringing forth the ancient customs and traditions as if nothing had changed in the time.

On my last trip, organized by Unusual Italy for iFood, I went to the discovery of the Amalfi Coast, a place full of breathtaking landscapes, dominated by lush nature and characterized by the presence of assets from a strong artistic and cultural value, but above all a treasure trove of culinary traditions, with typical products that have made these places famous all over the world, thus giving life to a tour that combined the aspect of food to local traditions, going to discover the “secrets of the craft” and everything that it represents an invaluable cultural heritage of this area.

In particular I was fascinated Cetara, a small fishing village, as it represents the true prototype of the country, characterized by a fantastic traditional product of campania: the “Colatura di alici”. A product of noble and ancient, that condiva meals of Julius Caesar and of the roman emperors: it very much resembles, it is said, to the garum, the roman, and then recovered from some monks, that they began production since the middle Ages.

But what is the colatura di alici of Cetara? Is that the sauce is very tasty that is obtained of the anchovies and leave in salt and that the soul is the most important meal of the year from the parties of Salerno, or that of Christmas eve.

It is a “juice” of fish obtained from the maceration of anchovies that are caught with the ancient method of the “purse” (lampara).

The processing is done “scapezzando” (beheading) the anchovies and then put them in a container, after being sprinkled with salt, for twenty-four hours. The salt alternates with anchovies so leave all fish placed in the barrel in direct contact with the salt, which will be the main responsible of the conservation. It is thanks to the latter that escapes the liquid will then be collected, and that, in a few months, it will become sagging.

Are then placed in wooden barrels called “terzigno” (chestnut or oak) alternating layers of anchovies, with the technique of the “head/tail”, sprinkled with layers of salt until the filling of the barrel.

Completed the start it covers the whole with a cap of wood on which rests a stone, the marina that is by weight.

As the anchovies mature and rises above the cover, a liquid that is the base of the casting.

In the month of December proceeds to the tapping of this.

Drilled the terzigno in the bottom of the barrel, with a tool called “vriale”, allowing the leaking to drip into special glass containers, then filtered again with linen rags, and, finally, ready-to-eat.

The anchovies used for the pouring of Cetara are harvested between the 25th of March (Feast of the Annunciation) and July 22 (Mary Magdalene), and then are scapezzate, gutted and put in terzigno.

The casting has a strong taste and deep, that includes notes of smoke although it is obtained from fresh anchovies. He has an intense flavor that makes it the protagonist of the dish of the tradition cetarese: spaghetti with colatura.

Typically they are used for spaghetti or linguine, cooked without salt, which is already included in abundance in the casting itself.

The pasta is cooked very al dente, and then made to jump in the casting along with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and seasoned with extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, garlic and possibly chilli in varying doses.

This beautiful liquid color mahogany is, however, much appreciated for adding flavour to vegetables, fish or meat. Many use it as a condiment for a good plate of spaghetti with clams, being, however, always careful not to overdo it in the proportions, you only need a few drops!

Have you ever tried?

The day ended at dinner by chef Pasquale Torrente at the restaurant “Al Convento” with an atmosphere and traditional cuisine, where we could finally taste this amazing product!

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