I had an itching for anchovies. Just love them. Poor little guys get a bad rap, especially in the states where the only use for them seems to be in caesar salad dressing or on top of a pizza. But these tiny, shiny, very pretty little fish (look at one closely) are jam-packed with flavor (and not fishy flavor like you might think) and a whole bunch of fabulous vitamins to keep us healthy.
In a world where certain fish (that are less good for us) are going extinct, we need to rethink our fish intake and start to recognize that “pesci poveri” (poor fish) or “pesci azzuri” (blue fish) are, in fact, one of the best “meats” a person can eat. They are also plentiful and inexpensive. Along with yummy little anchovies, this fish group includes sardines and mackerel. All it takes is a little educating and trying out a few recipes to find there is nothing fishy about these fish.
Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now and give you the recipe! This is a very typical dish of Le Cinque Terre (hence the name with Vernazza in it!) and very easy to make:
1/2 kilo of fresh anchovies
2 large potatoes
1 large tomatoes
A handful of Italian parsley
1 clove of garlic
1 cup of white wine
Pre heat oven at 200° C (about 400° F)
The cleaning of the anchovies is the only real time consuming part of this recipe. In order to clean an anchovy, you have to “pop” off the top of the head and then pull down to take out the insides. Then along the same cut, open the rest of the body with your finger and pull out the spine. Ok, might sound really gross, but once you do one, you’ll almost find it rewarding to continue, no joke! If you get skirmish about these things, your fish monger will probably take care of the cleaning for you.
Cut the potato into thin slices (about 1 cm thin) and then chopped up the tomatoes into little pieces. Mince the parsley and garlic together along with a little salt and if you like, as I do, a little red pepper flakes for some punch.
Use either a pan with sides (ceramic or tin, but with tin use “carta al forno” underneath) and then start lining the pan in layers starting with the potatoes, then the anchovies, then a bit of the parsley mix, then the tomatoes, then a few more anchovies and parsley mix.
Sprinkle the top with olive oil and the white wine. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 30-35 minutes. What comes out is a flavorful and super healthy “secondo piatto” for 4.
Please try this dish and let me know if I have converted you to an anchovy lover like me!