Baccalà alla Napoletana

For today (and as a hint to a future article on salt), I thought I’d give you a touch of salt rather than sweetness and opted, instead, for a recipe for baccalà – it’s the one I first tasted and was used by a Neapolitan who taught me so very much about food. Baccalà is salted cod as opposed to stockfish which is dried cod). He was and is truly talented and his knowledge of food is instinctive, spiritual and dare I say, genetic? I believe that Italians are born with a sense of food and art, it is within them and they rarely have to study it. They just have it.

Baccalà is something available world wide and the Portuguese, in particular favour it.  For the next few weeks, I will feature recipes for salted cod from all over the world and if anyone has a good one, I will test it, include it and give you credit for it. I already have one or two of my own that I collected in my travels, but I would really love to get yours. So let’s get on with it and start with my version of Baccalà alla Napoletana:

Ingredients

1 kg salted cod
100 ml excellent extra virgin olive oil (why not try Garguilo, organic extra virgin olive oil from near Sorrento). It’s really good.
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g ripe Italian tomatoes, peeled, deseeded & chopped
200 g black, pitted Italian olives, left whole
50 g salted capers, rinsed and lightly squeezed dry
1 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 lemons, zest only
Salt to taste and only if you got rid of it when soaking
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Flour for dredging

Method

Soak the salted cod in several changes of cold fresh water (at least overnight) but to make absolutely sure, break off a small piece and check for saltiness before you prepare it. You can always ask the fishmonger what he would suggest

Preheat oven to 160 C

Remove the cod, rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into bite sized chunks, discard bones and skin and dredge with flour. I simply put the flour in a plastic bag, toss the fish in and shake to cover all the pieces effectively.  Heat half the oil in a heavy pan over medium heat and fry the garlic very lightly until it is just soft. Take the pan off the stove and remove the garlic with a slotted spoon or, sieve the oil into a little bowl. Use that oil and fry the chopped tomatoes, olives, capers and black pepper for about 15 minutes over low heat until they begin to soften and remove. Add the rest of the olive oil to the tomatoes with the zest, salt to taste and half the parsley. Check and correct the taste. Now add the cod and fry lightly over medium heat for about 15 minutes, adding freshly ground pepper at the end.  Transfer to an ovenproof dish and bake, covered in the preheated oven for another 15 minutes.

Serve with hot, crusty bread and a bottle of cold Falerno del Massico DOC from the Villa Matilde in Campania. It seems only right that one drinks wines from Campania with this dish that belongs, absolutely to Naples!

Please note that I  excluded the discussion on the history of the this fish because it has been scheduled for a later article.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Baccalà alla Napoletana

  1. We ate this, or something similar (memory is vague), in Spain. It was good.
    I was reluctant to try it because my aunt used to make lutefish at Easter? or Christmas? Vile stuff, that! Obviously, I was too young to have a few vodkas before consuming it… I’m thinking that is why my mother never liked fish in any form except frozen fishsticks.
    Lutefisk (sp?) is different, I think.

  2. I think it’s a matter of taste …..

    The Scandinavians are famous for Lutefisk and are really very good at it, will post you a recipe later today. Maybe you’ll change your mind?

    European countries all have their different versions of Baccalà and I’ll be featuring a different one on Sundays over the coming weeks.

  3. I have never made it! Just the memory of the smell when my aunt was cooking it has kept me from trying to. My husband who pretty much eats whatever he’s served tasted some of my aunt’s lutefisk and just managed to swallow it.

    A whole bunch of work is stealing my time right now, but in a few days, I’ll find the recipe. Or, and also the recipe for piimäkorppu.

  4. I must admit that I have never ‘luted’ the fish myself since we can buy it ready to cook! I had it made by superlative chefs in Scandinavia and loved it, so I would dearly love to have both your recipes. I love the fish …… but then again, there isn’t much food I don’t like.😉

  5. rachel

    We are having a baccalà phase in our house
    at present and this could well be the next recipe. I ate something rather like this in Sicily but it clearly was not called alla Napoletana !!
    Well, I am very very glad to have found your blog, ideas and writing.

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