There are memories that seem to linger in your memory for decades, as clear as the moment you first experienced them. For Suzen and me, a trip to the fish market in Venice is one of those symbolic times. We were there one gray morning, the air cold and smelling of salt and fish, as we wandered among tables and bins filled with the wonders of the seas and rivers surrounding Venice.

Some of the food there was dead, fresh but dead. Some alive and kicking. The technique for dealing with a live eel is something that I will not put on this blog.

We saw enough fish and learned enough recipes on that trip to last us a long, long time. We’ve eaten anchovies in both the North, Venice, and the South, Bari. Grilled, stuffed, and combined with the classic complements like capers, anchovies are a wonder.

This sauce, from Classic Food of Northern Italy, is offered to top off poached skate. But it’s a sauce that has many, many uses. You can this sauce apply to any fish — salmon, trout, … It’s an excellent match for other poached dishes, like chicken or turkey breast. And that baked potato you like to goop up with butter and sour cream, well, here’s a healthy alternative that will put a zing in your mouth.

Anchovies may be small, but pound for pound [or ounce for ounce], they are flavor powerhouses.

This recipe was originally written to accompany the poached skate and called for using 5 ounces of the poaching liquid. If you have some on hand, use that. Otherwise, I’ve modified the recipe to use 5 ounces of dry white wine. The sauce will be different using wine, but still excellent.


Anchovy Sauce

Yield: ½ cup


  • 1 ounce [2 tablespoons] unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, bruised
  • 1 layer of sweet onion
  • 2 ounces canned, anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 5 fluid ounces of dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Choose a medium sauté pan, large enough to hold all these ingredients.

Heat the butter and the oil and throw in the garlic and the onion layer. When you begin to smell the aroma of the garlic and onion, fish them out and discard them. Turn the heat down and add the anchovies. Press them against the bottom of the pan to reduce them to a mash.

Mix in the flour and then add 5 fluid ounces of dry white wine. Cook over gentle heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly and adding, if necessary, a little more wine until you get a fluid sauce, similar in consistency to light cream.

Rinse the capers and add to the pan together with the parsley, lemon juice and plenty of pepper. Taste and season to taste


Source: Classic Food of Northern Italy by Anna Del Conte [published 1996]