by Olivia Ware for Williams Sonoma
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
Pasta alla Puttanesca
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.