Stuff Anchovies With Simple Ingredients For A Delightful Meal

If you've found yourself dreaming about the perfect Italian-inspired summer, us too. As the weather gets warmer, we're increasingly thinking about sipping on Aperol spritz cocktails, diving fork first into fresh-made pasta, and quickly eating melty gelato. Even if you won't be jetting off to the Italian coast anytime soon, you can still bring those coveted Mediterranean vibes to your back patio this season.

Whipping up your own Italian creations for friends and family is a great way to elevate any garden party or celebratory gathering this summer. And while caprese salad and cacio e pepe might be the first items to appear on your menu, you might want to consider also making stuffed anchovies to spice up your table. Originating from the seaside coast of Liguria, these anchovies are stuffed with breadcrumbs, fresh herbs, tasty seasonings, and select vegetables; a combination that makes a perfect appetizer. This delicious seafood dish can be served fried or baked, and we guarantee that your guests will be going in for seconds.

The history of Ligurian-style stuffed anchovies

While this anchovy dish may seem a bit luxurious, especially since you can find it served in high-end restaurants along the stunning cliff sides of the Cinque Terre, it actually originated out of necessity. The dish has roots in the northwestern seaside region of Liguria, a place now known for popular vacation destinations and its robust fishing industry. Here though, the dish was initially created from the cibo povero tradition.

Cibo povero directly translates to 'poor food' and is the tradition behind many Italian dishes we know and love today. These meals were made when food was not always available and money was tight. Peasants took advantage of what was accessible to them in their local areas, and they created dishes that would be adequate in feeding their families.

For those in Liguria, utilizing days-old bread, wilting vegetables, and locally-caught anchovies resulted in a stuffed fish dish that has stood the test of time. While today these ingredients may not always be used out of pure necessity, combining these foods together still creates an incredibly salty and flavorful dish fit for your summer table.

A delicious dish featuring simple ingredients

Of course, the main attraction of this dish is the fresh anchovies. This fish is popular in Liguria where they're abundant in local markets. If you're visiting the region and would like to try some, they often come fried with herbs and garlic and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan. However, stuffed anchovies have long been an Italian staple, and the other ingredients included in this dish show why.

It's hard to go wrong with breadcrumbs, especially in this dish where they make up the base of the stuffing. Whether you're making them homemade or not, breadcrumbs add a seasoned crunch to the center of the fish. The stale bread is often combined with seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano, chard leaves, and parsley for a fresh yet savory bite. Olive oil and eggs are added in as well to act as glue.

The stuffed anchovies can be garnished with fresh lemon or orange slices and an extra dash of parsley. While they do take a bit of time to make, the effort is guaranteed to yield one of your new favorite appetizers of the season.

Have fun making Ligurian-style stuffed anchovies

Making this appetizer can take you up to 2 ¬Ĺ hours to create, so it can be a bit intimidating for those who always feel rushed for time. But if you gather your friends and family to help out, the prep process will fly by. The first step when making this dish is cleaning the anchovies. This is likely the most time-consuming part of the recipe, but Italians usually make a party out of it. Everyone joins in on deboning, scraping off the scales, and preparing the fish to be stuffed.

Once the anchovies are cleaned and sliced lengthwise, the stuffing can be assembled. Breadcrumbs, cheese, vegetables, herbs, seasonings, and binders all get mixed together in a large bowl. Once the stuffing is congealed, it can be dolloped into the center of each butterflied anchovy. The assembled fish is then either baked in the oven or fried with more breadcrumbs coating the outside. Once they're cooked, the stuffed anchovies are best served warm. An optional dipping sauce can accompany them, but after the first bite you won't have any trouble diving in without additional frills.