Pasta with Colatura di Alici {Essence of Anchovy Sauce}

I am always reading up on new cooking trends or unique ingredients, and I had bookmarked a page in a magazine last year that discussed colatura di alici, or Italian anchovy sauce. The description said that this unique ingredient added umami to any dish it was used in just as Asian fish sauce does.

At the time this article was written, it was stated that colatura di alici was not easily found outside of Italy and in fact, originated in the small fishing town of Cetara in Campania. This liquid sauce originated from garum, used in Roman times as a dressing for all their food. The Roman garum was created by fermenting various types of fish together then straining off the liquid to use as a flavoring.

Colatura is made today using just anchovies that are kept in salt inside wooden barrels for forty days. The juice, or colatura, is then strained off and is used to dress hot pasta along with garlic, olive oil, and a little lemon juice.

The salted anchovies are used in other ways. As soon as I knew we were heading to the Amalfi coast on one of our vacations, I planned to visit Cetara, the small town where colatura was born. Although the drive along the coast from Positano was at times quite nerve wracking, we did visit Cetara and bought some anchovy based specialty products. (See Cetara in photo)

I must admit here that I am not a huge fan of anchovies although I do use them in my cooking. Anchovies in the can or jar are not ingredients I’d choose to add to top my pizza or eat whole, though I have learned that a little anchovy added to many dishes does add a savory depth of flavor.

When I first made this easy pasta dish for my husband, who is in fact, a lover of all things anchovy, I had expected to find it fishy tasting and quite frankly expected not to like it. Surprisingly, although there was a subtle fishy smell, the flavor was not jump in your face anchovy, but a subtle, unique flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The only thing I changed from the true original recipe for this pasta was to add a pinch of red pepper flakes for my husband who prefers pasta to have a little heat,  a handful of fresh breadcrumbs, and a little lemon zest. This sauce would also be great used to add a little umami flavor to any other dishes. You can find Colatura at or at many specialty food stores.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 

Pasta with Colatura di Alici {Essence of Anchovy Sauce}

Pasta with Colatura di Alici {Essence of Anchovy Sauce}

Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Colatura is a uniqe sauce made from anchovies that originates in Almafi.


  • 8 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 4 Tablespoons Colatura di Alici
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • Red Pepper Flakes (Optional - See Notes Above)
  • 6 Tablespoons Chopped Parsley Leaves
  • 3/4 Pound Spaghetti
  • 1/2 Cup Toasted Fresh Homemade Breadcrumbs (Optional)
  • Zest of 1 Lemon


  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  2. Cook the pasta until it is “al dente”.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, mix together the oil, colatura, garlic, red pepper flakes, and parsley in a small bowl.
  4. Drain the pasta, then toss the hot pasta with the sauce and lemon zest until the pasta strands are well coated.
  5. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs if using.
  6. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 432Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 107mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 7g

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