According to us, anchovies belong in just about everything, so here's how to put them to work.

By Julia Heffelfinger
Updated September 14, 2018
Credit: Con Poulos

Don’t know what to do with that ingredient you only used once and has now been living in your pantry for months? Or looking for a new way to use an ingredient you simply can't get enough of? We've got you covered. Whether you’re looking for a quick throw-together side, a satisfying weeknight meal or an impressive weekend project, we’ll show you how to take some of our favorite pantry items and put them to good use, no matter your skill set—or desired level of effort.

Anchovies are a magical ingredient. Incredibly versatile with big, savory, briny flavor, they can really do not wrong, whether they're chopped up and stirred into tomato sauce, dissolved in shimmering olive oil, or laid on toast smeared with good butter for a quick snack. These mighty little fish add a pleasantly funky boost to almost any dish.

While fresh anchovies are actually quite mild, when they are salt-cured and packed in olive oil (like that tin or jar collecting dust in your cupboard), they become intensely rich, salty and meaty. If you find yourself reaching for tubes of anchovy paste, reconsider. The curing process makes filets soft and tender and easy to mash into a paste, so why buy the tube when you can have a jar with more possibilities? For only about $5 a jar, you can take a dish from so-so, to something distinctive and packed with flavor.

To get you started, here are three ways—a super-easy pasta, a twist on a Provençal classic and a show-stopping steak—to put those little guys to work.

I want something simple: 15 Minute Pasta

This pasta dish is for those nights when you’re feeling too lazy to cook, but your bank account can’t handle another GrubHub order. Not only does it come together quickly with minimal effort, but it relies on simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Serves 2.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, thinly slice 2 large garlic cloves and finely chop a good fistful of Italian parsley. Add ½ pound spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente. When the pasta is close to done, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the garlic, 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets and ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat until the garlic has softened and the anchovies have dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the pasta into the skillet (it’s ok to get some pasta water in there – you want that). Add 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice and a generous pinch of kosher salt and black pepper and simmer until the spaghetti is coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and a generous flurry of finely grated parmesan cheese. Transfer to two shallow bowls and eat right away.

I have some extra time: Short-Cut Pissaladière

This pizza-like tart, pissaladière, is a specialty of Nice, France. The traditional toppings include caramelized onions, anchovies and olives but here, creamy slices of avocado are added as well for a buttery bite. While you can totally make your own dough, using store-bought pizza dough makes quick work of the crust.


This French pizza-like tart is a great way to show-off those anchovies. The sweetness of the caramelized onions scattered over the top off-sets the salty, brininess of the anchovy fillets and olives. Then some sliced avocado is added for more mild creaminess. To make this recipe doable on a weeknight, we’ve swapped in store-bought pizza dough for a quick crust alternative. Find the recipe here.

Give me a challenge: Ribeye and Radishes with Bagna Cauda Butter

This is a Sunday dinner-level dish. Something you make to impress the in-laws. This recipe takes the flavors of bagna cauda, an olive oil-based garlic and anchovy sauce from Piedmont, and turns it into a flavored compound butter. The deeply-addictive butter is then used to baste roasted radishes and a hulking rib-eye (this is the time to splurge on a good steak), complimenting the meat and giving the tender radishes a silky sheen. Don’t be turned off by the generous amount of anchovy fillets – they pack a delicious, deeply savory punch. Find the recipe here.