Baccala is dried salt cod. Before cooking it, the dried fish needs to be soaked in cold water for two days until tender and the water needs to be changed numerous times to remove the excess saltiness. You can also buy it already soaked and ready to cook. Baccalà can be difficult to find in the UK and the de-salting procedure is time consuming, but you can also make this recipe with fresh cod - it is delicious and easy to make.
As in many Italian dishes, there are numerous versions of the same recipe. Roman Jews like to cook Baccalà alla Romana in a tomato and cinnamon sauce. A more common Roman version of the same dish omits the tomato sauce. Instead, the cod is cooked with capers, pine nuts and raisins. The interesting thing here is that pine nuts and raisins are usually part of Roman Jewish cooking. I propose, of course, the Roman Jewish version as I have always known it.
I suggest cooking the fish with the skin on as it keeps the fish from disintegrating; however if you don't like the skin, you can cook it without, just be aware that it may fall apart while cooking.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Serves 4-6 as main course.
● 1 kg dry salt cod soaked in water for 2 days, cut in fillets and ready to cook, or fillets of fresh cod, skin on
● 2 onions, finely sliced
● 1 kg tomato passata
● ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
● Small bunch of fresh basil
● Splash of white wine (optional)
● Extra virgin olive oil
● White flour to coat the fish
● Salt and black pepper to taste
● Rinse the fish in fresh water and pat it dry. Check the fish for bones and remove any.
● Tip: The easiest way to remove the bones from raw fish is with tweezers.
● Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and leave it to cook for a few minutes until tender and just golden. Add the passata, a little salt, pepper and the cinnamon. Stir and leave to cook, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.
● Meanwhile, warm up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a separate non-stick pan.
● Gently coat the fish with flour, shaking off any excess, and shallow fry it for a couple of minutes on both sides, flesh-side down first.
● Drain the fish and add it, skin side down, to the saucepan with the tomato sauce. Spoon some tomato sauce on top of each fillet of fish and leave it to cook, without turning it, for 5-8 minutes, adding a splash of wine half-way through the cooking process.
● Add the basil once it has finished cooking.
● Serve warm, on its own or with some rice.