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Cooking with Anchovies: Creative Ideas and Recipes

Updated on September 5, 2011

Small Fish, Big Impact

The fermenting of small salted fish to make a powerful flavoring ingredient in cooking dates back to antiquity and extends over many cuisines. The extraordinary thing about the results - from canned anchovies to the fish sauces of Southeast Asia - is that the original 'fishiness' has virtually disappeared to leave a deep, complex tanginess that works wonderfully against other foods -- from vegetables to meat and poultry. The recipes and creative ideas that follow show just how amazingly versatile these salty morsels truly are!

Anchovy Sauce

Use to accompany garlic-studded roasted leg of lamb, creamy potato gratin and salad with prosciutto pieces.

You will need:

  • 1 ounce (30 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil from anchovies or olive oil
  • 5-6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, coddled (see note below)
  • ½ cup light olive oil


  1. Heat butter and oil in a frying pan and cook anchovies and garlic, mashing with a fork, over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Cool. Transfer to a food processor with lemon juice, eggs and freshly ground black pepper to taste and process until smooth. With motor running, gradually add oil in a thin, steady stream until thick and creamy. Makes about 1 cup.

Note: To coddle eggs, boil in the shell for 30-60 seconds. Remove from water and cool.

Long Anchovy Toasts

Serve on their own with beer or accompanied by a garlic bean puree, Skordalia or a selection of antipasto. Toasts are also good broken and sprinkled over a salad dressed with a creamy dressing.

You will need:

  • 1 small day-old French bread stick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 anchovy fillets


  1. Cut bread on the diagonal into very thin slices. Heat oil in a small frying pan and cook garlic and anchovies over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until fillets break up (it may be necessary to mash them with a fork). Brush both sides of bread slices with a little of the anchovy oil, place on an oven tray and bake at 375° F (190° C) for 10 minutes, or until toasts are crisp and golden. Makes about 20.

Onion Tarte Tatin with Anchovies.
Onion Tarte Tatin with Anchovies.

Onion Tarte Tatin with Anchovies

You will need:

  • 1 stick (20 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons superfine (caster) sugar
  • 6 medium onions, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup good chicken stock
  • 1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar or white or red wine vinegar
  • 6 anchovy fillets, or to taste
  • Fresh thyme sprigs, to garnish


  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 3 ½ ounces (100 g) chilled unsalted butter, chopped


  1. For pastry, combine flour with butter and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor and process until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. With motor running, add enough iced water, about 2-3 tablespoons, to form a dough. Press into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Melt butter in a heavy, 10 inch (25 cm) ovenproof frying pan. Sprinkle with sugar and remove from heat. Cut 4 onions in half and arrange, cut side down, over base of pan.
  3. Slice remaining onions and scatter over and around onion halves. Sprinkle with thyme and season to taste. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, over low to medium heat for 15 minutes, or until onion halves are golden on the base. Pour over stock and vinegar, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes, or until onions are tender. Remove lid, increase heat and cook for about 5 minutes, or until liquid has reduced to a thick syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Roll anchovy fillets into small spirals and arrange among onion halves. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to a disc slightly larger than the frying pan. Place over pan and tuck in edges to fit closely around the onions. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry is cooked and golden. Stand in pan for 5 minutes before inverting on a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature in wedges, garnished with sprigs of thyme. Serves 6-8.

Pasta with Crisp Anchovy Crumbs

You will need:

  • 1 ¼ cups day-old breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons pine-nuts, toasted
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets, or to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 ounce (30 g) butter, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 13 ounces (410 g) ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 ½ pound (600 g) fresh spaghetti, cooked until al dente
  • ½ cup basil leaves, extra, torn
  • Finely grated rind of ½ lemon


  1. Combine breadcrumbs, pine-nuts, Parmesan, garlic, anchovies and basil in a food processor and process until just combined. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (do not over-process or the mixture will stick together). Sprinkle on an oven tray and bake at 350° F (180° C) for 15-25 minutes, or until mixture is crisp and golden, shaking tray occasionally to ensure even cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan and gently toss tomato over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Gently stir through drained, cooked pasta, with extra basil and lemon rind. Divide among 4 bowls and serve sprinkled with anchovy breadcrumbs. Serves 4.

Anchovy Salsa

You will need:

  • 1 cup firmly packed, freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 4 pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt-packed capers, washed, drained and chopped
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Croutons made from French bread, cut in thin slices on the diagonal and crisped in the oven, to serve


  1. Combine parsley, anchovies, olives, spring onions and capers. Add lemon juice to taste and bind with a little olive oil. Season to taste and serve with croutons passed separately. Makes about 1 ¼ cups.

Anchovy and Wilted Spinach Bruschetta with Mozzarella

The spinach mixture topped with Mozzarella can also be used to place over char-grilled or barbecued beef, then placed under the grill to melt the cheese. Also use as a vegetable accompaniment or as part of an antipasto platter.

You will need:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets, or to taste
  • ¼ cup currants, soaked in ¼ cup boiling water for 15 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons pine-nuts, toasted
  • 6 ½ ounces (200 g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • Finely grated rind of ½ lemon
  • 10 slices ciabatta or other Italian bread (about 3/4 inch/1.5 cm thick)
  • 6 ½ ounces (200 g) Mozzarella, sliced


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan and cook onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and anchovies and cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring and pressing anchovies with the back of a wooden spoon until they break up. Add drained currants, pine-nuts and spinach and toss to combine. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until spinach wilts. Stir in lemon rind and freshly cracked black pepper to taste and remove from heat. Place bread slices on an oven tray and brush with a little olive oil, top with spinach mixture and 2-3 slices Mozzarella. Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 10 minutes, or until heated through. Serve immediately. Makes 10.

Other Creative Ideas

  • Soak salt-packed anchovy fillets in a little white wine vinegar to "wash" off the salt. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook anchovies over low heat with a good squeeze of lemon juice, lots of freshly chopped parsley and crushed garlic. Serve with thick slices of bread or toast and a selection of antipasti, such as marinated roasted peppers (capsicum) and roasted egg tomatoes, if desired. Also good served with a spinach, Parmesan and chopped hard-boiled egg salad.
  • Stir chopped anchovy fillets through polenta with pitted, small black olives, freshly chopped basil and grated Parmesan.
  • Stir mashed anchovy fillets into softened unsalted butter with any freshly chopped herb and chopped capers. Chill before serving with char-grilled steak.

More Suggestions

  • Wrap or stuff pitted black olives with anchovy fillets.
  • Make a relish by slowly cooking finely sliced peppers (capsicum) and onion, covered, in a little olive oil for about 30 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar to taste and chopped anchovy fillets and cook gently for 10 minutes longer. Serve on savory crackers or crostini with goat cheese feta.
  • Top sheets of puff pastry or prepared pizza bases with good tomato sauce, sliced fresh Mozzarella, fresh oregano leaves and anchovy fillets. Cook until base is crisp. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.


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    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

      ooooo nicely displayed, and so tempting...

      I never liked anchovies, cuz I thought they'd taste fishy, but they don't !! It's more "nutty." Man, was I embarassed to find out they're the main ingredient in Ceasar salad've stretching my creativity with these recipes....I'm bookmarking you!!!