January 19, 2022

Dorothy’s Corner: Baccalà

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By Dorothy Dimarzo From The Somerville Times

The practice of salting and drying Cod has been around for hundreds of years. It was used to preserve large quantities of fish for long periods of time while out at sea. Many cultures use this technique for preservation, including those located in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean, and Brazil just to name a few. Of course, with the celebration of Christmas upon us, that brings us to the Italian-American tradition of what is called the Feast of the Seven Fishes served on Christmas Eve.

This recipe was passed down from my grandmother’s family who came to the United States from Calabria in the early 1900’s. My Aunt Dot has preserved this recipe and has made this dish on Christmas Eve for many years. I hope you enjoy this hearty dish as my family does every year.


2 to 2-1/2 lbs. Baccalà (salted, dried cod)
4-5 Medium All Purpose Potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4-1/2 Teaspoon Peperoncino, Red Pepper Flakes
1 Medium Onion, small dice
3 Large Garlic Cloves, finely minced
3 Medium Bay Leaves
1-28oz. Can Crushed Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste

This dish takes 2 days of preparation in advance. You need to soak the Baccalà prior to cooking and serving. Place the dried cod fish into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Change out the water about every 4-6 hours. When approaching the 36-hour point of soaking, taste the water and check for saltiness. If the water is not salty, you’re ready for the next steps.

Drain the water from the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Be careful not to break apart the fish. Cut into approximately 2”x3” pieces and set aside in the refrigerator.

Rinse and peel the potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Place the potatoes into a pot large enough for all the potatoes to fit and add cold water covering the potatoes by about an inch of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

In another pot, (6 quart), add the olive oil and red pepper flakes. Heat for about a minute on medium heat, lower the heat to medium low and add the diced onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes just until translucent. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaves. You should add a pinch of salt and pepper at this time to season the tomatoes.

Gently add the pieces of fish into the sauce. Add the drained potatoes into the sauce. Make sure all the ingredients are covered by the tomato sauce. Cover and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes checking on it periodically making sure it doesn’t boil. You may gently move the potatoes and fish with a spoon, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Ladle out into a bowl and serve with crusty bread.

Visit Dorothy’s website at http://ddimarzo2002.wix.com/thymethief.

For more on this story go to: http://www.thesomervilletimes.com/archives/80551

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