Anchovies are essential to an Italian pantry. One can immediately see the higher quality of this product: small plump, pink Sicilian anchovy fillets which have been cured for up to 14 months in salt and are then marinated in high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
There are over 144 species of anchovies in the world, but in Italy, the only anchovy used for retail and restaurant sales is the Engraulis encrasicolus, known as the European anchovy. The anchovy is an oily fish with a slender, silvery blue-green skin, a pointy snout and forked tail. European anchovies can grow up to eight inches long and may live up to three years, though often they are caught before reaching that size.
Anchovy season is from May to October. Fresh anchovies are rushed to the factory and given an initial salting. In a traditional process, swift-fingered women gut and behead each anchovy with a single flick of the wrist. Anchovies need to be "ripe" or they will not have much flavor; they should have a rich aroma and a rosy color. The anchovies used in this type of oil-packed fillets are the smallest and highest quality. They are gently washed in fresh water and manually deboned. The fillets are laid out to dry overnight and hand-packed in small glass jars, then topped with high quality extra virgin olive oil which gets "infused" with the anchovy flavor.
Use in panini, on crostini, as a topping for perfectly made pizza, and when making any pasta sauce. Ideal to use on salads or any other preparation where the anchovy fillet will be a "star."