I keep seeing TV cooking shows where they say that anchovies mashed in pasta dishes impart a huge umami ‘flavor’ but don’t taste fishy. With Mrs. Midlife insisting that she can’t stand fishiness I would appreciate some opinions as to the veracity of what I’ve heard before I take a chance. Thank you!
It will depend entirely on the other ingredients. But my guess is that any recipe which includes them is likely to be sufficiently robust that the anchovies will just add to the savouriness, without standing out (for example, in a classic puttanesca sauce). Suggest you make Mrs M a dish which includes anchovies and , also, other ingredients that she usually enjoys in a pasta sauce. Your call as to whether you disclose their presence before or after dinner.
I use anchovy paste in pasta sauces all the time. I think it really does improve the flavor and can’t taste it at all in cooked dishes. I do taste it in uncooked stuff like Caesar salad dressing, not particularly fond of it that way.
I am an anchovy hater, but find their inclusion in complex sauces not only unobtrusive but greatly missed should you leave them out.
Note that as in all things there are anchovies and there are anchovies. Perhaps this is an ingredient that does not lend itself to cost-cutting.
Can you provide the recipe, or at least the dish, you are thinking of using anchovies in, mashed or otherwise?
Some dishes with mashed anchovies, as others have said, simply provide a savory umami dimension, something that makes you go, “hmm, this is quite tasty, but I can’t exactly put my finger on what makes it so tasty” and then there are dishes where you are like, “WTF, how did I order bouillabaisse and not know it?”
I wonder if the “paste” is the magic? My wife doesn’t mind the flavor of anchovies (kids love it ) but she can’t abide the small bones. So is the paste essentially either bone-free, or bones so mashed up that you can’t detect them?
 Even like anchovies mashed into a cream cheese/sour cream spread for crackers or bagels is a favorite for them, but not for my wife.
In general, because of my wife’s dislike of the little bones (which frankly I find hard to fathom), I’ll use a bit of fish sauce in a lot of dishes instead.
But the notion that “you can’t taste the anchovies in this” is kind of silly to me. Of course I can.
It really depends upon the brand and the quality of the anchovies
I really dislike anchovies and I can taste them, despite being told they just melt in and add savouriness. So maybe it depends if the eaters like them or are very offended by their flavour?
Can you taste it in Worcestershire sauce?
Serious question, not trying to pick a fight.
Answering for me, yes, in traditional Worcestershire sauces. But I like it, so there’s that.
I use anchovies all the time when making various pasta sauces. I add anchovies to the oil when making aglio e olio for example. I don’t see how anyone could discern the bones. They anchovies dissolve into the oil leaving flavors without leaving much in the way of substance. One of my favorite sauces for vegetables is bagna cauda. But I love anchovies. Often when I am coving with them as an add them to the hot pan I will just pop one in my mouth. That salty savory flavor is awesome.
Yes, it comes in a tube. I read about it in Gourmet Magazine years ago and have substituted it for the real thing for a long time.
It matters how much you put in, obviously. I also think that anchovy paste in a tube is generally quite a bit milder than whole anchovies, plus you don’t have the little bitty bones, if that matters to you, it’s a little more clandestine . A few drops of a good fish sauce works, too, to me, but I love both anchovies and fish sauce.
Or possibly how sensitive your palate is at being able to identify different components in a given food.
Mine used to be really good- not so much any more, as much as I hate to admit it.
I love anchovies. My tops are Agostino Recca packed in salt . Also Monterey bay whole frozen anchovies packed be Sea Wave
I only use the paste in a tube now. I found that opening a tin of anchovies and mashing them was fine. I froze the remaining anchovies and their oil in a small glass jar. A couple of weeks later I defrosted them and made the same pasta meal. The taste of cod liver oil overwhelmed it. The tube keeps the paste safe from oxidation.
Me too. Whether the tinned ones or those in vinegar you find in tapas places (that the Spanish call boquerones). I was at a restaurant last week where my starter was a take on Caesar salad, which always includes anchovies. There’s they’d fried the fillet till it was crisp - so you had a salty, fishy crunch. Delicious addition, IMO.
I learned the anchovy trick from an Indian friend (of all people!), and have never looked back. I don’t add them to all my pasta sauces, but even a very simple, olive oil/garlic/cherry tomatoes/RPF ‘sauce’ benefits from melting (yes, melting as in dissolve to just flavor) a few anchovy filets in the oil.
I use those in a glass jar & have never been able to discern any bones. Another anchovy lover here, so I don’t skimp on them, either.
I love anchovies, but like you I use tubed anchovy paste in my pasta sauces. In fact, I use tubed anchovy paste in a lot of things. Umami only; I can’t taste the anchovies. Neither can my anchovy-hating guests