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Italian Anchovies: A Complete Guide To One of Italy's Prized Foods

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Italian Anchovies: A Complete Guide To One of Italy's Prized Foods

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

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 flavorful journey:

Bagna Cauda

This addictive recipe hails from the Italian region of Piemonte where cold nights call for dipping vegetables into this warm dip made from anchovies. 

Click here for the recipe.

Pasta con le sarde

This delightful pasta recipe makes use of cured anchovies to boost the flavor of fresh sardines. A touch of fennel and saffron make this dish extra special.

Here is the recipe.

Vitello Tonnato

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 flavor combo.

Click here for the recipe.

Stuffed Peppers

This delectable recipe for red peppers stuffed with rice is flavored with parsley, anchovies and olives.

Learn how to make it.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Minced anchovies, pancetta and basil add wonderful flavor to these stuffed mushrooms, an easy appetizer recipe that is a big crowd pleaser.

Find the recipe here.

Hungry For More?

Discover the many uses of the famed Italian anchovy sauce known as colatura di alici.

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