An anchovy is a variety of saltwater fish that is primarily found in the Mediterranean Sea. It is small, approximately 6 inches (15.24 cm), and is often prepared in fillets and preserved in salt or oil, especially in areas throughout the world where fresh anchovies are not readily available. Although anchovies play a major role in traditional Mediterranean cuisine, one of the most common dishes that the fish is prominently featured in is anchovy pizza. Making a successful pizza with anchovies tends to depend mainly on correctly preparing the fish to prevent its pungent salty taste from overpowering the other flavors in the dish.
When preparing anchovy pizza, the specific type of packaged anchovy that is selected can make a difference in the overall taste and quality of the finished dish. Fresh anchovies tend to be considered to have the best flavor; however, they are typically only available in areas of Europe near the Mediterranean Sea or the English Channel. A commonly accepted substitution for fresh anchovies involves anchovies cured in salt, since it is thought by many that salt curing does not alter the taste of the fish as much as packing them in oil.
Another one of the best tips for making anchovy pizza is selecting other ingredients that complement the flavor of the fish. Since the anchovies have a rich flavor on their own, 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 more mild tomato-based sauce tends to pair well with the anchovies without making the dish overly rich. Some chefs even opt to forgo pizza sauce and instead use onions sautéed with garlic as the base for the pizza in order to just enhance the fish. For a cheese topping, more flavored varieties of cheese, such as mozzarella or ricotta, may be preferable to salty types, such as Parmesan, because it may help balance out the saltiness of the anchovies.
The process of preparing the base of an anchovy pizza generally depends on the texture that is desired for the crust. If a crispy crust is desired, it will typically require a longer cooking time; therefore, the crust may be baked prior to putting on any toppings in order to prevent overcooking the other ingredients. For a more mild flavor, the anchovies may be sautéed in oil before being placed on the crust with the other ingredients because cooking helps mellow out their strong flavor.