The Surprising Ingredient Giada De Laurentiis Can't Get Enough Of

If Giada loves it, we probably will too.

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a side by side of Giada De Laurentiis and Colatura Di Alici Di Cetara Riserva 2017
Photo: Getty Images/Courtesy of Brand

From her restaurants' lush pasta dishes to her multitude of hit cooking shows, Giada De Laurentiis has a well-deserved place in the culinary landscape, especially when it comes to Italian cuisine.

And, even though we've gotten a pretty good peek at the foods she loves to eat, there may just be one ingredient that you'd be surprised she loves: Anchovies.

"They're so polarizing and can get a bad reputation, but they're used prominently all over Italy," De Laurentiis wrote to us by email. "I think people can be surprised in general when they have an expectation of what anchovy flavor will taste like, and they're prepared to be grossed out, but then find that it's really delicious."

Anchovy Filets In Tin

Buy it: $18.40,

In a quest to learn more about what she loves and sells at Giadzy—her website and market, where she shares tips, recipes, and sells curated Italian-made ingredients—De Lauretiis shared that she uses the tiny tinned fish often despite their infamous reputation.

When it comes to classic anchovies in a tin, the brand Armatore is her favorite pick thanks to their special depth of flavor. They're hand caught off the Amalfi coast. Fishermen go out to sea at night, then just hours later they layer the anchovies with salt and chestnut wood casks to begin the preserving process. Anchovies are best known for their ability to add a salty, umami flavor to any dish, whether you melt it away in a sauce or a dressing, or top dishes with whole filets, so Giadzy recommends adding them on top of a pizza margherita, under tomatoes in bruschetta or melted away into pasta.

There's another similar ingredient De Laurentiis relies on heavily, too. "I especially love Armatore's Colatura di Alici," De Laurentiis says. This liquid gold is Italy's version of fish sauce, and a drizzle of it can amp-up any dish with tangy, deep and rich flavors. "Italians on the coast use it all the time to give a salty, umami punch to recipes. I think of it a bit as a secret culinary weapon," she says.

Colatura di Alici

Buy it: $25.50,

The process of making this sauce isn't too far off from preserving the anchovies, and it aligns with many Southeast-Asian fish sauce-making methods. The anchovies are layered with salt and put in those same wood casks to ferment. Though Armatore doesn't write exactly how they bottle up their version, most of them are made using the exuded liquid from the anchovies during the aging process, which is up to three years according to the brand.

Once the liquid is collected, you're left with a flavor-packed essence to drizzle over any dish you see fit, though a little bit goes a long way. Top a pizza, flatbread or roasted vegetables with a dose of this, or add it to dressings. That said, the best way to appreciate its flavor is to make spaghetti con la colatura—a funky, umami-rich version of aglio e olio.

De Laurentiis' outlook on anchovies speaks to her general mentality when it comes to making food, especially when it comes to ingredients people may not be used to. "I'd like to challenge people to try products they're not so sure about or ones that aren't as popularized in the United States, and let themselves be pleasantly surprised. I think it's really cool to expand your culinary horizons and try something new," she says. And anchovies, whether preserved whole or in a tangy fermented sauce, is a great place to start.

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