I’ve never really understood people who say they don’t like anchovies. I always have a feeling that they just say that, thinking that anchovies are about the fishiest, strongest tasting thing they can imagine. I admit, that if you put an anchovy right into your mouth, with nothing else to buffer it, then yes, it’s going to be fishy, salty and intense.
But rarely are anchovies eaten like this. For anchovy addicts there is no better treat than bread slathered with butter topped with one perfect fillet. They also pair perfectly with mozzarella and potatoes. You see where I’m going here? Anything rich and/or starchy only improves with anchovies.
But there is another side to anchovies. This is when they give up their starring role, to be a back up player in a recipe where they are only one of many ingredients. In this case they disappear, melting into the dish to lend it a full, rich flavor that almost nothing else can bring.
And those dishes? I’ve gotten even the staunchest anchovy haters to gobble down dishes they never suspected of being even remotely fishy. Since they don’t actually see an anchovy, they are none the wiser
Another stealth approach to anchovy inclusion is to use colatura.Colatura is a magic, ancient, ingredient that comes from the Amalfi Coast. Said to be the descendent of the ancient Roman’s garum, colatura is the liquid that is given off while anchovies are being salted in barrels. Similar to Asian fish sauce, but with a much purer, anchovy taste (in my opinion).
In Italy most colatura comes from the little fishing village of Cetara, where they are still catching and preserving anchovies the traditional way. My friend Beatrice kindly sent me a slender bottle of this fishy elixir a few weeks ago, and I’ve been using in just about everything. Last week I used it to make tagliolini e zucchini. While I could have used anchovies, I guess, I liked the idea of the elegance of just the green of the zucchini and the yellow of the fresh pasta, without the fishy bits of brown anchovies marring the pristine beauty. While using colatura may have started out as an aesthetic decision, it ended up being a delicious one.
With colatura, a little goes a long way. In fact, when making pasta with colatura, I usually salt the pasta water a bit less, since the colatura is salty itself. The classic way to use colatura is to make the standard spaghetti aglio olio pepperoncino, adding a splash of colatura at the end. But I think it works even better with fresh pasta and some sort of green. And since the first tiny zucchini are just showing up at the market, they were just calling out to be used.
You’ll see there is not much other flavoring going on here. No garlic. No onions. Just pure and simple oil, pasta and zucchini. And of course colatura. But that’s our secret.
- 500 grams/ 1 pound fresh tagliolini or
- 5 small zucchini, preferably romanesco, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup chopped garlic chives
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon colatura
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt lightly.
- Add the pasta and bring back to boil.
- After four minutes add the zucchini.
- In the meantime heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to hold the zucchini and pasta.
- Add the garlic and let cook for two minutes.
- When the pasta is almost done (if you are using fresh pasta this shouldn’t take that long) drain the pasta and zucchini, reserving a cup of the water.
- Add the pasta to the pan with the olive oil and garlic and toss. Add half the reserved water, stir, and add the colatura.
- Continue cooking until the pasta is al dente, and most of the liquid had evaporated.
- Toss with the chives and serve.
If you want to play around with colatura (and I hope you’ll be tempted to do so) you can order a bottle here.