Of Anchovies and Cat Food

A small bottle of anchovies finally convinced me to mend my anchovy-buying ways.

I didn’t expect them to be great, but I thought they’d be decent. When opened, however, the pervading aroma was: Cat food. So inexpensive people food turned into expensive pet food.

Consorcio anchovy tinTime for drastic action. No more standing in front of anchovy displays playing eenie-meeny-miny-moe. I called an authority I could trust: Corti Bros in Sacramento. I would have to mail order, but now I understood that sometimes, for good food, you just have to go the extra mile. Or two.

And I got through to a real person! And he knew anchovies! I said no to the fillets packed in salt. The package was too large. So he recommended a brand of anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, Consorcio, saying he often opened a tin, poured out the oil (lucky cat!), added fresh olive oil and put the anchovies out as hors d’oeuvres with bread. He thought, to be sure I liked them, I should try just a tin, and maybe the 35-gram tin. I would have none of it. I wanted 5 of the 50-gram tins.

The other night I made a Caesar salad pasta Joyce Goldstein demonstrated at Williams-Sonoma when I worked there. Put the anchovies in the saute pan to “melt” as the recipes always say. I don’t think I’d actually ever seen that happen until these went into the pan and immediately melted into the hot olive oil. Add a goodly amount of garlic and dried breadcrumbs to brown in the anchovy-flavored oil, and then some lemon zest and minced flat-leaf parsley. Toss this with hot, cooked and drained spaghetti, a little pasta cooking water, salt, freshly ground pepper, a splash more olive oil, and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice if it needs it. Divide among heated pasta plates and top with freshly grated Parmesan.

Do I need to mention this is food for the gods? The men of the family loved the pasta to a man. And boys. Now there’s only a single tin left. Time to make a call.


I am a veteran cook, but I always avoided making bread. I recently took Penni’s hands-on class for no-knead bread and, in a matter of hours, I produced a beautiful, plump, round loaf that was worthy of display in a bakery. And, it tasted great!

-Robin Wirthlin San Francisco

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

Contact Penni Wisner