What are the best tips for making anchovy pizza?

Mozzarella with tomato and basil leaves.

Anchovies are a variety of saltwater fish found primarily in the Mediterranean Sea. It is small, approximately 15.24 cm (6 inches), and is usually filleted and preserved in salt or oil, especially in areas around the world where fresh anchovies are not readily available. Although anchovies play an important role in traditional Mediterranean cuisine, one of the most common dishes in which fish excels is anchovy pizza. Making a successful pizza with anchovies tends to rely primarily on preparing the fish correctly to prevent its pungent salty flavor from overpowering the other flavors of the dish.

Fresh anchovies are considered the best for pizza, but they are not easy to find.

When preparing anchovy pizza, the specific type of packaged anchovy selected can make a difference to the overall flavor and quality of the finished dish. Fresh anchovies tend to be considered to have the best flavor; however, they are normally only available in areas of Europe near the Mediterranean Sea or the English Channel. A commonly accepted replacement for fresh anchovies involves salt-cured anchovies, as many think salt-curing doesn’t change the flavor of the fish as much as packing them in oil.

It is important to combine milder ingredients with anchovies when making a pizza.

Another of the best tips for making anchovy pizza is to choose other ingredients that complement the flavor of the fish. Since anchovies have a rich flavor in their own right, it is generally not recommended to prepare a pizza sauce that is equally rich, such as a cream-based alfredo sauce, béchamel sauce, or other white sauce. A milder tomato-based sauce tends to pair well with anchovies without making the dish too rich. Some chefs even choose to forgo the pizza sauce and instead use onions sautéed with garlic as a base for the pizza, just to enhance the fish. For a cheese topping, tastier varieties of cheese, such as mozzarella or ricotta, may be preferable to savory types, such as Parmesan, because it can help balance out the saltiness of the anchovies.

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Ricotta cheese is a popular topping on anchovy pizzas.

The process of preparing the base of an anchovy pizza usually depends on the desired texture of the crust. If a crispy crust is desired, it will normally require a longer cooking time; therefore, the crust can be cooked before putting on any toppings to prevent the other ingredients from overcooking. For a milder flavor, anchovies can be sautéed in oil before being placed on the crust with the other ingredients, as cooking helps to soften their strong flavor.

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