Anchovy Bread
Appetizers,  Breads,  Fish,  Italian,  Side Dishes

Anchovy Bread (Sfogliata)

A tiny grenade of umami, the humble anchovy gives chefs a secret weapon for deepening the flavor and richness of sauces and stews. It melts away as it cooks, leaving only salt and a savory meatiness. But Italians take anchovies out from behind the curtain, celebrating them in the dish bagna càuda, in robust pasta sauces, and as a classic pizza topping. And this Italian Anchovy Bread (aka Sfogliata), sliced into colorful little pinwheels with luscious paprika-spiced filling, further proves how anchovies can command center stage.

We first learned about this easy and elegant bread from Ruth Reichl’s book, My Kitchen Year. Ruth, the longtime Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet and acclaimed food critic at the New York Times, can sure write a mean memoir. She tells amusing and poignant stories, all from a quirky and food-centric view of life. Fun reading and great recipes. Can’t beat it.

So we started with her recipe for Anchovy Bread (which apparently came from Gourmet) and simplified it. Ours tastes divine and looks like hers, so we love the results. We hope you will, too.

Serve Anchovy Bread as an antipasto—it will steal the show. According to Ruth, “Nothing tastes better with a glass of robust red wine.” And that’s high praise for the modest little anchovy.

Anchovy Bread (Sfogliata)

Adapted from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl


  • ¾ cup lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Seasoned Anchovy Filling:

  • 7 anchovies, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
    (or ½ teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup olive oil (or less)
  • Sea salt for topping, sprinkled to taste

  1. Mix together water, yeast, bread flour, salt and olive oil until it comes together in a ball. Knead for about 2-5 minutes in the bowl, until it gets smooth. If you want, use a bread whisk to pull the sides of the dough over the top to stretch the dough and develop the gluten without adding extra flour.  
  2. Add a little oil to the bowl, roll the dough around to coat it, cover, and let it rise in a warm spot for an 1-1½  hours, or until it doubles. (If you have a proofing setting on your oven, using it can cut the time down to about an hour.)
  3. Meanwhile, put minced anchovies into a small bowl with oregano, paprika, kosher salt and pepper. Add up to ⅓ cup olive oil, whisking to combine.
  4. Roll the dough into about a 15-inch round. Reserve about a teaspoon of the anchovy filling and spread the rest over the dough, up to about an inch of the edge. Roll into a tight jelly roll and pinch the seam closed (some filling will seep out). Coil the roll into a spiral, like a snail, and set into a greased 9” round cake pan, seam side down. Press down lightly. Brush the top with the reserved anchovy filling, sprinkle with sea salt, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise ½-1 hour, again depending upon the warmth of the room.
  5. Bake in preheated 375° oven for about 35 minutes until golden and crusty, with an interior temperature a little above 200°. Remove from pan, cool, then slice thinly to serve. Freeze leftovers to preserve freshness. Ruth says it makes good toast, buttered.
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