Anchovies are small saltwater fish, are about three inches long and are related to Herring. There are about six distinct species of the fish worldwide and are all are harvested for consumption. Anchovies are a special type of fish which is also named Engraulis mordax mordax. Anchovies are a schooling fish which are extremely abundant in some areas of the Pacific coast, such as California. They are a pelagic species and are particularly susceptible to changes in water temperature. Anchovies have special characteristics like body elongated and moderately dense, greenish body with bright silver band along body, posterior of mouth reaching past eye, nearly to margin of opercula, single dorsal fin and they are as well soft fishes. They eat specially zooplankton or small insects. This tiny saltwater fish is associated to the Herring belonging to the family Clupeidae. They are frequently used in cooking and can be prepared fresh, but are not always easy to get hold of and are regularly sold packed in salt, tinned in oil, as a paste in jars or tubes, or as a sauce. They are as well commonly used as a stuffing for olives.
The true anchovy comes only from the Mediterranean and southern European coastlines. they are generally filleted, salt-cured and canned in oil.
Acciuga is the Italian word for anchovy. It might be the most versatile and widely used of all Italian fish. Anchovies are small saltwater fish that live in deep ocean water, and they only come near the shore when it is their mating season. The harvesting of these fish is very tightly regulated by the government of Italy. Anchovies have a bluish-green color when caught fresh and are classified as pesci azzurro or blue fish. Sardines and mackrel share this classification. The adult fish can reach a length of eight (8) inches and are used fresh in a large number of dishes, or preserved in salt and olive oil. Good canned anchovies are considered just as good as the fresh caught variety. Anchovies are an integral part of the southern cuisines of Italy and are a very prized commodity. The best anchovies are taken from the Gulf of Naples and Sicily. Cefalu, Sicily is one of the major sources of anchovies.
Anchovies that are to be preserved in oil are cured in salt to make acciughe sotto sale, salted anchovies. The fish are layered with rock salt and left to mature for at least three months. The excess salt is removed and the backbone is removed with a small knife before they are packed in the oil.
Pasta d'acciuga (anchovy paste) can be bought in tubes, jars, or cans. Anchovy paste is a pounded mixture of anchovies, vinegar, spices, and water.
You can substitute 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste for 2 anchovy fillets. Five to six anchovies = about 1 1/2 tablespoons to 2 tablespoons of anchovy paste.
In order to reduce the saltiness of preserved anchovies, soak them in cold water for about 10 minutes, then change the water and soak for 20 minutes more.
You can use the oil from canned anchovies to flavor sauces, or marinades. When using anchovies or their oil, remember they are salty and you need to taste your dish before salting further. Anchovies and/or their oil can add a depth of flavor to marinara sauce, generally one to two fillets (1/2 teaspoon-to-one teaspoon of paste) added to the marinara near the beginning of the cooking will flavor the sauce very well.