Today baccalà, better known in English as cod, is part of the culinary traditions of every Italian region, yet this particular fish from the northern seas arrived in Italy following unusual routes.
Perhaps many know the story of the Venetian merchant who was shipwrecked in 1432 in the Lafoten Islands and who after his rescue began the stockfish trade in Venice and therefore in every part of the areas where the commerce of the Serenissima arrived.
In reality, the Normans, who came from the far north, brought with them some of their food traditions such as that of dried cod, thanks to the northern winds, stockfish or ‘fish fingers’. It could have been easily transported either way but it’s not baccalà.
The baccalà is always a cod but its conservation method changes and salt is used instead of the drying wind. The first to use this method seem to have been the Basques, the warrior people between Spain and France.
Despite the Normans, therefore, also in Sicily stockfish and cod arrived due to the trade with Venice and other countries. When they arrived on the island they were called “piscistoccu and baccalaru” and gave rise to many traditional dishes.
Today it is prepared any day of the year, but it was once eaten a lot on Fridays and during Lent. Not to mention some special days of the Christmas holidays and December 7 (eve of immaculate conception) and New Year’s Eve.
Today I prepare what is the traditional dish of my family from Sciacca, a Baccalà Ghiotto (cod) that everyone was crazy about.
Ingredients and recipe for Baccalà Ghiotto:
- fresh spring onions
- peeled tomatoes
- pitted olives
- black pepper
- Pine nuts
It all starts with desalting which is the longest phase without which we will not be able to eat cod. The cod is soaked the day before and the water is changed regularly to remove all the salt and to make the fish softer.
At this point the real recipe begins: fry the spring onions in olive oil. Once golden, add the peeled tomatoes and continue with a slow cooking. Then add the cod cut into large pieces.
When the cod is halfway cooked, add the potatoes cut into large pieces and the spices. Keep the flame low until cooking is complete.
Serve and sprinkle finely chopped fresh parsley.