Pane Burro e Alici (Bread Butter and Anchovies)

Frankantipasti, snack, summer25 Comments

Pane burro e alici (Butter and Anchovies on Bread)

I don’t know about you, but when temperatures rise into triple-digits (on the Fahrenheit scale) as they have lately in much of the Northern Hemisphere, even my enthusiasm for cooking begins to lag. That, and our impeding house move, has meant that any cooking that I do indulge in these days is as quick as possible and, whenever possible, doesn’t involve the use of any heat source…

So here’s a quick note on a great non-recipe for times like these: pane burro e alici, or anchovies and butter on bread. All you do is take some good, crusty bread, cut it into slices, slather a bit of fresh butter over each slice and top with one (or if you really like them, two) anchovy filets. Ecco fatto!

Serve with some sprightly, crisp white wine that will stand up to the assertive flavor of the anchovies.


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, when it comes to a dish this simple, the quality of your ingredients really matter. Good, crusty bread with excellent crumb is very important. (NB: Bread like this can be hard to find in the US, so I like to lightly toast my bread, which helps give it better structure.) The butter should be fresh and unsalted—we get ours from a local dairy—and allowed to soften for just a few minutes; it should be neither rock hard nor too soft. And the better the anchovies, the better the dish, although regular supermarket canned anchovies packed in oil will do you fine.

The ‘genius’ of this dish lies in the contrast in flavor and texture as between the butter and the anchovies. The butter should be smooth and creamy and mild—it will balance out the assertiveness of the anchovies perfectly.

These are traditionally served as an antipasto or snack, but if you ask me, you can make a light meal of them if you want, just followed by a salad and some fresh fruit.

And for all of you who don’t care for anchovies, what can I say? I guess you’ll have to give pane burro e alici a miss, but that’s really too bad. You’re missing a real treat.

25 Comments on “Pane Burro e Alici (Bread Butter and Anchovies)”

  1. the anchovy really deserves some serious appreciation! I love this, my father-in-law would always prepare these as an antipasto with some white wine, so delicious!

  2. Thanks to one and all! Nice to see that a simple treat like this can still have such appeal. Trust you are all having a lovely summer. Stay cool!

    @PolaM: You're welcome! These little goodies really are additive, aren't they? ;=)

    @Roseanne: I'm going to keep you in suspense, for just a bit longer… ;=))

  3. Since I've seen this post I had to have bread with anchovies at least 3 times…. Thanks for reminding me of this awesome treat!

  4. I used to think I didn't like anchovies, but luckily I have learned the error of my ways. This is perfect for this weather.

  5. YUM! I love anchovies and have no idea why I've never even thought about anchovies on bread… Best of luck with the move!! kate @ kateiscooking

  6. It's nice to know that you like this too. My mother used to buy salted anchovies, clean them and put them in a jar with olive oil and we would have them on buttered bread for dinner. One has to try it to understand the appeal. You don't sound like a broken record: you are absolutely right: this is all about very good ingredients. Good luck with the move.

  7. I never can get what people find so wrong with anchovies – especially when they also claim to love Caesar salad! I'll definitely be giving this a try though, because I adore simplicity and anchovies =)

  8. Yes, cooking is hard these days… And I love simple things like this, of course premium ingredients are essential in this case. Happy summer, Frank!

  9. I completely agree with you – when there are few ingredient, they need to be quality to stand out. Sounds terrific….(I wish I wasn't allergic to anchovies)

  10. Wow – this sounds my idea of heaven! I'd probably drink Fino or Manzanilla with it. One of my favourite tapas in my town here in Andalucia is a Finger of bread (with a particular texture of course!), topped with a wedge of local hard cheese and then crowned with a fabulous salted anchovy. Yum, yum

  11. Major YUM!! This is something I never would have thought of, but it sounds fantastic. I can just imagine the contrast of the anchovies and the creamy, unsalted butter. Wish I had some anchovies right now!

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