The uninitiated may turn up their nose at anchovies but the fact is that this tiny Mediterranean fish is packed with flavor, umami and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Many believe the best anchovies come from Italy, especially from the waters off Sicily and the region of Calabria (the tip of Italy's boot).
Italian anchovies fall into two categories: acciughe and alici. Acchiughe refers to cured anchovies which may also be preserved in olive oil.Alici is the Italian term for fresh anchovies.
Canned Italian anchovies are widely available in most markets. For the best quality, opt for jarred anchovies preserved in olive oil.
Paul Asman & Jill Lenoble/ Flickr
What are Italian anchovies?
Italian anchovies belong to the “pesce azzurro” (blue fish) family of fish and have been a staple catch for Italian fishermen for thousands of years. They measure on average between 1 to 4 inches in length and can be found in abundance everywhere in the Mediterranean. Their flesh contains a lot of fat, making them rich in healthy oils.
How to store anchovies
Once opened, Italian anchovies should be refrigerated. Transfer canned anchovies to a glass jar and refrigerate. They will keep for up to three months.
How to cook with Italian anchovies
The trick to cooking with Italian anchovies is to remember this golden rule: a little goes a long way.
Salt cured anchovies should be washed and dried off with a towel before cooking. Anchovies sold packed in oil should be drained before being added to a dish.
Try this simple tip for boosting the flavor of any dish: cook the anchovies in a bit oil until dissolved then proceed with sautéeing aromatics like garlic, onions and celery. This will infuse the flavor of anchovies to the dish without overpowering it.
There are countless ways to use Italian anchovies but here are five easy recipes to get you started on your flavourful journey.
This addictive recipe hails from the Italian region of Piemonte where cold nights call for dipping vegetables into this warm dip made from anchovies.
Pasta con le sarde
This delightful pasta recipe makes use of cured anchovies to boost the flavour of fresh sardines. A touch of fennel and saffron make this dish extra special.
This legendary Northern Italian recipe features roasted veal served with an anchovy-spiked creamy tuna sauce. The ingredients may should like an odd pairing but you'll love the flavour combo.
This delectable recipe for red peppers stuffed with rice is flavoured with parsley, anchovies and olives.
Minced anchovies, pancetta and basil add wonderful flavour to these stuffed mushrooms, an easy appetiser recipe that is a big crowd pleaser.
Hungry for more?
Discover the many uses of the famed Italian anchovy sauce known as colatura di alici.