Posted on 23 December 2008 by

Recipe: Baccalà with Tomatoes

By Michelle Fabio

A popular southern Italian Christmas Eve tradition carried on by Italians all over the world is the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

The number seven represents the seven sacraments, seven days of creation, or simply the fact that seven signifies perfection in the Bible.

And the fish?

Well that’s because Catholics aren’t supposed to eat meat on the Vigilia di Natale.

Popular fishes in the feast include calamari, smelt, clams, and shrimp, but my favorite is baccalà: dried, salted cod.

To reconstitute the fish, you soak it for two days, changing the water three or four times, a nice ritual that increases the anticipation of a delicious Christmas Eve dinner with each change of the water.

Here is a recipe for baccalà typical of Calabria in southern Italy:

Baccalà with Tomatoes

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
– 3 medium tomatoes
– Half glass of water
– Baccalà
– Handful of parsley
– Salt to taste
– Pasta of your choice

1. Rinse baccalà in cold water and then soak for 48 hours, changing the water three or four times.

2. Cut baccalà into smaller pieces about 4 inches long.

3. Cut an “x” in the bottom of tomatoes and plunge into boiling water for a minute. Remove tomatoes from boiling water and put in a bowl of cold
water. Once cooled a bit, remove skins (they’ll fall off) and chop into smaller pieces for sauce.

4. Heat oil on medium in large pan and add garlic, frying until light golden brown.

5. Add tomatoes, water, and a bit of salt and let simmer for about five to ten minutes, until tomatoes are broken down a bit.

6. Add pieces of baccalà and parsley and let simmer for another half hour to 45 minutes until the baccalà is cooked (depends on how thick your pieces are).

7. Test for salt, and if you are serving with pasta, prepare pasta as usual.

8. Remove baccalà from pan to a serving bowl and then add cooked pasta to the pan and coat with sauce.

9. Serve a piece or two of baccalà on each serving of pasta or just leave the baccalà in a community bowl in the middle.

Buon appetito e buone feste!

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