3 Reasons to Give Anchovies a Chance

Cook, Ingredient Spotlight, Sicily

Anchovies can be a polarizing ingredient, as a group visit to any pizzeria will prove. No matter how you feel about them personally, it’s impossible to deny anchovies are a powerful tool in the chef’s arsenal, adding pops of subtle umami flavor to unsuspecting dishes.

 

Sicilians are known for grinding anchovies into pasta sauces and salad dressings in a way that masks the texture of the tiny fish. When you find yourself wondering what made that one dish taste so full and rich, anchovies might just be the answer (for example, a traditional Caesar salad).

 

Need more convincing? Try one of these recipes starring anchovies, then scroll down for our tips on selecting and preparing them at home.

 

Puntarelle with Anchovy Dressing
The tangy dressing takes center stage in this salad, and it couldn’t be simpler, with garlic, anchovies, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Puntarelle, a variety of chicory, are available in the colder months, but you can substitute any salad greens you like.
Tapenade Crostini
Tapenade makes an easy and delicious topping to pastas, flatbreads and these easy-to-make crostini. Made with garlic, anchovies, olives and seasonings, the spread tastes pleasantly savory, not fishy.
Pasta alla Puttanesca
Puttanesca is the ultimate throw-it-together pasta dish, open to a million variations. Crushed anchovies, though, are what really make this tomato sauce stand out.

 

SELECTING & PREPARING ANCHOVIES

 

The best-quality, freshest-tasting and meatiest anchovies are those packed whole layered in salt and sold by weight from large tins in Italian delis.

 

To prepare salted anchovies for use: Rinse well under cold running water. Split open along the backbone and cut off the dorsal fins. Pull out the spine, rinse out the interior well and pat dry with paper towels. Use immediately as directed in recipes or place in a glass or other nonreactive bowl, cover completely with a thin layer of olive oil and refrigerate. Use within 2 weeks.

 

If salted anchovies are unavailable: Use a good brand of anchovy fillets packed in olive oil. Look for those sold in glass jars rather than tins. The jars permit you to judge easily how firm and meaty the fillets are.

 

Tell us, readers. Anchovies: yay or nay?

10 comments about “3 Reasons to Give Anchovies a Chance

  1. Heather

    I absolutely love anchovies and use them fairly often, albeit secretly. They add a rich, deep flavor that often can’t be placed. I grind them finely or sometimes soak them in a bit of milk to rid the fishy/salty taste. My preference is the jarred version in olive oil. They make a wonderful addition to a piquant tomato sauce w/ tuna. It’s not unlike puttanesca, but has a terrific meatiness.

    Reply
  2. Jim

    You can’t make Caesar dressing without anchovies, and they really add a lot of flavor to many sauces. I always start my braised short ribs and veal shanks with a few anchovies!

    Reply
  3. Gabrielle Robbins

    In Switzerland, anchovy comes as a paste in a tube. I always have one in the refrigerator and use some in a salad dressing, on an open-face sandwich with hard-boiled eggs, spread on a leg of lamb, etc. It keeps really well in the tube and is very handy. (I also have tomato paste, mustard, and horseradish in a tube. Always available, never dries out).

    Reply
  4. Judi

    I love anchovies. I can eat them out of the can! I put them in my recipe for stuffed artichokes and people just love the artichokes! I also use them to make a delightful pasta dish with garlic, oil and achovies. Once they are added to the pan with the garlic and oil, they disintegrate so you really don’t know they are even in there. Try them and taste for yourself.

    Reply
  5. Paula Ashley

    Anchovies are a “magic bullet” for any sauces that benefit from a touch of meaty flavor. For example, a teaspoon or two of anchovy paste in a few cups of pasta sauce will give it depth and dimension without a fishy taste.

    Reply
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