Many people will only have experienced anchovies as the shrivelled, salty slivers found on half-baked pizzas of your youth. If you're an anchovy sceptic, probably scarred for life by such pizzas, we implore you to think again. Treated properly, anchovies take on magical properties. Chopped and stirred into sauces, they add a subtle umami, salty seasoning that avoids that 'fishy' odour that scares off many a budding anchovy-eater. You may not even be aware of some of the classic dishes that anchovies play a key part in, such is their subtlety. Spaghetti alla puttanesca, for example, sees anchovies infused into the rich tomato and olive sauce. Salsa verde also boasts a healthy dose of these small-but-mighty fish.
Anchovies spoil very quickly after being caught, so are usually either packed into salt or oil shortly after to preserve them. Saying that, if you can get your hands on fresh anchovies, it's worth treating yourself to a beautifully simple dish such as Grazia Soncini's Anchovies marinated in lemon - the delicate marinade beautifully offsets the rich flesh of this oily fish.
Although anchovies lend themselves particularly well to simple dishes, our Great Italian Chefs have demonstrated in spades how they are worthy of starring in refined, complex dishes. Pino Cuttaia's 'Anchovy painting' recipe sees the humble anchovy elevated to a work of culinary art, while anchovies play a great supporting role in the form of anchovy butter in Marianna Vitale's Veal tartare recipe.