Àola, as the common bleak is referred to in our local dialect, is a small fish indigenous of Lake Garda. Though excellent fresh, especially fried, they are even more delightful after they have been left steeping for some time in brine: they are then usually used to make a sauce for the traditional, spaghetti-like extruded pasta known as bigoli. The locals call this dish bìgoi co le àole. This is a remarkably simple recipe, but you must find someone who took some time last summer to prepare its key ingredient, the renowned àole salé. To make this delicacy, the origins of which date back to ancient times, the bleaks must be sun-dried for 3 to 4 hours and then placed inside barrels, alternating layers of fish and salt: they will be ready to be savoured after approximately one month.
Bìgoi co le àole.
Ingredients (serves 4):
320 g spaghetti (better still if the extruded, long strands of pasta known as bigoli), 1 dl extra virgin Garda PDO olive oil, 150 g bleak in brine, 1 clove of garlic.
Pat dry to remove all traces of brine from the bleaks, without rinsing them. Remove heads and tails and chop coarsely. Heat part of the oil in a frying pan, add the clove of garlic and the fish, and fry for 10 minutes. Remove the garlic, turn the heat off and add the remaining oil. Cook the pasta in plenty of water, adding only a small amount of salt (the sauce is already very savoury). Drain the pasta, place it inside a casserole dish and cover with the sauce. If desired, one can add other ingredients to the sauce, such as bay leaves, rosemary and sage.