When I first came to live in Rome in the 1980s, one of my most vivid memories is the great tanks of soaking baccalà or salt cod in the neighbourhood alimentari or grocery shops, especially on Fridays. There were fewer supermarkets then, and more Italians observed the Catholic practice of eating fish (or rather abstained from meat) on Fridays.
This photo was taken at my local market last weekend: the whiter fish is baccalà (unsoaked) and the more yellowy fish is stoccafisso (stockfish) – also cod, but cured by drying instead of salting.
Baccalà has to be soaked in several changes of water before cooking to remove all the salt.
Baccalà can be prepared in a variety of ways and Baccalà alla Romana is dish typically eaten throughout Rome and Lazio on Christmas Eve.
It is very simple and quick to prepare – the success of the recipe depends greatly on the quality of the baccalà.
Ingredients (four people)
- 800-1000 g soaked baccalà
- Four large potatoes
- One small onion
- Small black Gaeta olives, pine nuts and raisins to taste
- Olive oil
Slice the potatoes and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Layer them in a baking tray with the onion, also cut into thin slices.
Add the olives (pitted), pine nuts and raisins (not soaked), followed by the cod cut into pieces and thoroughly dried.
Cover each piece with plenty of passata.
Add a generous splash of oil, a little salt and a sprinkling of oregano.
Bake at 190 degrees for 40/50 minutes, then raise the oven temperature to 220 degrees for 10 minutes.