Anchovy Syrup

64 Comments

Some of my Instagram friends may remember when I discovered anchovy syrup on Amazon one day and posted a photo of it. I’d never heard of it before, and there was lively discussion about how it compared to Asian fish sauce. However, it’s an Italian product.

I was so intrigued bought a little bottle of it, even with mixed reviews. It’s a 3-ounce bottle for $35.00, but you don’t use much.

It’s recommended for pasta, pizza, soups, in dressings, or sauces. Because I use anchovies quite often, I though this product could be quite handy as a pantry staple.

From Chef Shop: Colatura di Alici is the modern day descendant of an ancient and greatly prized Roman condiment called garum.

The method of making Colatura di Alici is the same now as it was then: by slowly curing Mediterranean anchovies with salt and extracting the liquid that drains from them. This part of the process takes 9-12 months to complete, a process that is as closely regulated as the DOC-controlled production of balsamic vinegar or champagne. The liquid is then aged in oak barrels for 3-4 years. It is then filtered and placed into jars.

Cetara, a small fishing village south of Naples, regards their Colatura di Alici as an heirloom food. It is an example of a foodstuff holding out against the modern age, and Slow Food Italy embraces it as an important regional specialty.

The IACA (whose Italian name translates as “Friends of the Anchovy”) is one of a few authorized producers of this heritage ingredient. It has only recently appeared in the United States, where chefs have enthusiastically taken it to their kitchens.

What especially intriguing about anchovy syrup is that although it’s made from anchovies, there’s no fishy-in-your-face quality to it, unlike fish sauce. In fact, it has a delightful aroma – truly. Anchovy syrup would be hard to identify it in a smell test.

To test the anchovy syrup, I decided to make a simple pasta with sautéed greens, topped with shrimp. Here’s what I did.

Pasta with Greens and Shrimp

4 ounces pasta, such as angel hair
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
5 ounces mixed greens, coarsely chopped
3/4 pound raw shrimp, cleaned, shelled

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta and sautéed greens. Add the shallot and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Then add the garlic and stir for a few seconds.


Add the greens and stir them into the aromatic oil, making sure all of the leaves are coated. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting and allow the greens to wilt. Then add the cooked pasta to the greens and gently stir to combine.

Add some anchovy syrup. I was going to get a pouring shot, but I can’t do anything with my left hand, and I can only use my camera with my right hand. (Where is my assistant?) So after I set down the syrup and camera I then put a little drizzle into the pasta and greens, and again stirred; set this aside.

Place the last tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, and cook the shrimp, only about one minute per side, depending on how big they are. Transfer them to a plate, and finish cooking all the shrimp. Sprinkle the shrimp with a little salt and some cayenne pepper flakes.

To serve, place the pasta and greens mixture on plates, and top with the shrimp.

Well, I could barely taste the anchovy syrup, so I had to add more!

Wow, this stuff is amazing.

And I have to say that this recipe turned out great.

Oddly enough, I tasted the anchovy syrup, twice actually, and it’s basically salt. The flavor doesn’t match the aroma!

64 thoughts on “Anchovy Syrup

  1. I definitely learned something today. I’ve never heard of this before. I use anchovies and fish sauce all the time, but this adds a whole new twist. It sounds like it smells differently than it tastes? Is there a richness to it or is it more soy sauce-like? Very interesting. Thank you, Mimi.

    • No richness, no flavor really. It tastes of salt. Probably not an essential ingredient to stock, but it was fun trying out.

  2. This looks delicious. I love prawns (shrimps). I’ve not heard of anchovy sauce but I guess it’s just like fish sauce. Gives you a salty kick. Cheers sherry

    • It was fun seeing what the Italian fuss was all about! They are very proud of this product!! It definitely doesn’t substitute for anchovies.

  3. Colatura is one of my favorite condiments – so incredibly versatile! Love this pasta, Mimi – just the kind of thing we love to throw together on a weeknight… like tomorrow! Will let you know what we think!

  4. I’ve never heard of Anchovy Syrup, although I love anchovies and any recipe that includes them I’m game to make! I appreciate your review of this interesting ingredient. It’s true, you do learn something new every day! Thanks!

  5. I must look out for this sauce as I adore anchovies and often melt a few in the pan when ma0king the final pasta toss. I’m in Indonesia at present where ‘garam’ means salt. May be connected in some way.
    M

  6. Isn’t it fun discovering and then trying a new product? Even if it was only a salt enhancement, I’m sure you will find just the right place for it to shine one day. Thanks for giving me something to be on the lookout for. :)

  7. Interesting! I’ve never heard of anchovy syrup, but I love this post, Mimi. As a former Latin teacher, I remember teaching students about garum….and I’m surprised to hear that it’s still around (just under a different name). I always thought the concept was rather gross, but then again I think the Romans made garum with all sorts of fish…not just anchovies. Either way, you’ve got me intrigued now!

    • Not any worse than Asian fish sauce, tho?!! I saw Anthony Bourdain visit a place that made fish sauce in Vietnam, i think. Giant round vats of rotting fish. Good stuff!

  8. I’ve heard of this, but haven’t used it. Sounds like I really need some — and so interesting that its aroma isn’t at all like fish sauce (I assumed it would be). Good stuff — thanks.

    • Well, you don’t really NEED it… but it was fun trying. And it will be a while before I use the whole bottle. It won’t substitute for anchovies. And yeah, the smell is really nice!

  9. You always find the coolest things! I would love a huge bowl of these slurping noodles. Is this anchovy syrup more like an oil or thin like fish sauce or something in between. We both need a personal hand model for our shots. LOL

    • It’s just a liquid, not oily, and not syrupy. I wish I had a hand model cause I have big fat hands that ruin photos! Plus there’s the left handed thing….

  10. Very interesting, like many I also haven’t run across this one. Tomorrow I’m in Copenhagen for the afternoon and I’ll check at the Italian market and see if they have it. I love new tastes so thanks for educating me and thanks for a great recipe.

  11. I’ve never heard of anchovy syrup, in fact i can’t even imagine it in syrup form. Like you I would be intrigued to purchase some as well just to see what it’s like. It’s crazy the products out there that I’m sure so many of us have never discovered.

  12. Amazon has just about everything, and I’m delighted that you could try this. I go through Asian fish sauce a lot since I love the cuisine, but colatura di alici is nice for a gentler flavor and I use it only when I don’t want to add salted or oil-preserved anchovies.

    • It really was fun to try! I’ve only come across one Italian food blogger who knows about it, so I don’t think it’s extremely popular or well-known.

  13. Thanks for sharing Chef Mimi – I am so late to the party with this one – I love anchovies and can see how this could be used in so many dishes. I’m going to have to track some down!

  14. The photos are particularly gorgeous! It sounds like maybe the oil didn’t quite live up to expectations? Or at least for that price. I tried anchovies in a tube, like the tubes you can buy with ginger or tomato paste, but I found I was too suspicious of it, since I couldn’t see it! It wasn’t very clear on the packaging how long it would stay good, so it worried me a bit. I’ll stick with old fashioned in the can anchovies from now on, I think!

    • I really didn’t have expectation, I was just really curious, especially when it stated that it’s a non-fishy anchovy syrup! I’m with you, I love good anchovies in jars, not even cans. thanks for the compliment!

  15. I made and used garum when I participated in the cooking of an ancient Roman meal at the Getty, where I used to work. A food historian and chef worked along us. I can tell you garum smelled horrendous, although, when added to the food, it blended in fine. I have never used anchovy syrup but I bet it’s a wonderful addition and not nearly as smelly.

    • It’s definitely not smelly. What did you do at the Getty? My daughter works at the Guggenheim, and went to Sotheby’s…

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