The more I learn about the Amalfi Coast, the more impressed I am. We owe it a debt of gratitute for such culinary wonders as limoncello, and this incredible fish sauce colatura di Alici made from anchovies.
The sauce is simple to make:
- select fresh anchovies
- clean and pack in a wooden barrel
- add weight on top of said anchovies
- heavily salt the lot
- forget about them for about 4 to 6 months
When they’re done brining, alchemy has occurred, liquid gold is in those barrels, and the final step is to carefully drill a hole in the barrel and extract that golden magic drain into a waiting receptacle. The results of a little pressure and time and time to some fish and salt is truly magical as the video shows.
To me this is quintessential artisanal food at its finest. In Naples, families make their own colatura in small batches for Christmas gifts for family and friends.
Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Raisins and Colatura
(recipe from the always wonderful Market Hall in Berkeley)
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 4 T extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- ½ c raisins
- 2 T pine nuts
- 1 T colatura
- 8 oz orecchiette
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Toss the cauliflower with 2T of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt and½ teaspoon of pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 10-12 minutes until nicely caramelized. In the last 3-4 minutes, add the raisins and pine nuts and continue roasting. (Do not burn the pine nuts!)
Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette in salted, boiling water. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Return the hot pasta to the pot and stir in the pasta water, colatura, 2 tablespoons of fresh extra virgin olive oil and the roasted cauliflower mix. Serve immediately.
The Amalfi Coast, or Costiera Amalfitana in Italian, stretches from the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy (Province of Salerno), extending from Positano in the west to Vietri sul Mare in the east. The towns found on the Amalfi Coast are Vietri sul Mare, Cetara, Maiori, Minori, Ravello, Scala, Atrani, Amalfi, Conca dei Marini, Furore, Praiano and Positano.
Famous for its scenic beauty and picturesque towns, the Amalfi Coast is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The towns of the Amalfi Coast:
Vietri sul Mare is a small town in the Campania region of Southern Italy and considered a good starting point for the Amalfi Coast drive. The town was first built by the Etruruans. The town is known for its ceramics, having been making them since the fifteenth century.
Cetara has a strong fishing tradition and is famous for its tinned anchovy and tuna. They are also known for their garum which is served with pasta. Garum being a fish sauce that was considered an essential condiment in ancient roman cooking.
Maiori is famous for the longest, unbroken stretch of beach along the coast. The churches in this town are worth more than a passing glance. At one point, during the Republic of Amalfi it was considered an important harbor that suffered from attacks.
Minori is a site of a first century Roman villa. It is known for its paper and pasta. The name of this town is linked to its neighbor Maiori: Rhegginia Minor and Rheggina Maior. The church of Santa Trofimena and the ancient Roman villa are considered requisite viewing.
Ravello is famous for its beauty it is a destination for artists, musicians and writers. The tourist guides like to tell the story that this town is the place where Satan transported Jesus to show him the world’s beauty. (Luke 4: 5-8) Places to check out include the Duomo (Cathedral) of Ravello: the central nave contains the “Pulpit of the Gospels”, created in 1272 by Nicolò di Bartolomeo, and the Villa Cimbrone and Billa Rufolo.
Atrani is famous for its churches: San Salvatore del Birecto and of Santa Maria Maddalena. The town was founded by wealthy Romans and became the home of the most powerful families in the region.
Amalfi is the main town on the coast that bears its name. Almalfi is built up the sides of the coast and is a series of seemingly endless alleys and steps. Must visit spots include: Duomo (the cathedral) in Amalfi, and its cloister (Chiostro del Paradiso in Italian) Conca dei Marini. Second only to kitchen accessories shops, I love stationary and paper shops. Knowing that paper making is such a tradition requires extra space in my luggage. The following information comes straight from wiki:
Amalfi is also a known maker of a hand-made thick paper which is called bambagina. It is exported, and used throughout Italy for wedding invitations, visiting cards and elegant writing paper. The paper has a high quality and has been used by artists such as Giuseppe Leone, who described it: “There is a whole world that the Amalfi paper evokes and an artist who is sensitive to the suggestion of these places is aware that it is unique and exciting”….The city is home to the Museo della Carta, a paper-making museum.
Furore was a town built by the Romans and thanks to nature, the coastline provided a natural protection for the pirates that ravished the region. This town is actually two villages, connected by a long staircase, one by the sea and the second, nestled in the mountains. The Fiordo is the place to check out here.
Praiano is a small town, again famous for its churches, San Luca and San Gennaro in their views. Also a must to check out is the Grotto Esmerelda or Green Grotto, which has a green light that reflects inside the grotto pool.
Positano was a town built by Romans and ideally located to take advantage of the Mediterranean trade. The church of Santa Maria Assunta is a good place to start exploring.