Baccalà, the sailors’ barometer ;)

Baccalà is a typical Italian dish. It is very popular in the whole country and it is one of the most important meals also in Liguria. Below I try to describe you this popular, Ligurian dish.

What is this?

Baccalà is a cod which has been preserved by drying after salting. Salt cod was long a major export of the North Atlantic region and has become an ingredient of many cuisines around the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.

History and name

Baccalà was born about 500 years ago following the methods of conservation of the whale meat. According to some people, the name baccalà it comes from the Flemish kabeljaw which means fish stick. Or according to others from the Latin baculus, which also means stick.

Salting process

The fish is beheaded and eviscerated, often on board the boat or ship. It is then salted and dried ashore. Traditionally the fish was sun-dried on rocks or wooden frames, but modern commercial production is mainly dried indoors with electrical heating. It is sold whole or in portions, with or without bones.


  • baccalà was an important food source during the long days of navigation. However, it was used also like a barometer. It was hung with ropes to masts of the ships and if the salt it was covered in started melting, it meant that the humidity was increasing and that a storm was coming,
  • thanks to the maritime trade baccalà became very popular. In the XVII century, traders in New England traded cod with other goods in the Caribbean, in the Canaries to Portugal.
  • a cod which has been dried without the addition of salt is stockfish (stoccaffiso)
  • but in the Venice area, the term “baccalà” is used for stockfish (dried cod) and not the salted cod.

How to prepare your own baccalà?

Firstly, you need a baccalà 🙂 In Italy, it is sold salted or already desalted. If you have to desalt it by your own you need at least 3 full days. You have to put your cod in a bowl full of cold water and then change the water about twice a day. After that period your cod won’t be too salty anymore.

Then, you have to take off the skin and check if there are no thorns. After all this proceeding, your baccalà is ready to be cooked.

Apart from about 1 kg of baccalà, you need also:

  • 300g tomatoes
  • 100g olives
  • 50g pine nuts
  • white, dry wine
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • parsley
  • 4 potatoes
  • rosemary
  • peper

You can cook it on a pan or prepared it the oven. It is enough to divide your baccalà and then add it to the rest of the ingredients.

On a pan

First, you warm some olive oil and cook garlic, parsley and onion. Then you add baccalà that you’ve desalted before and add white wine. When the wine has evaporated you can add tomatoes, potatoes, olives, pine nuts. You cook everything about 30 minutes. After that time your baccalà is ready!

In an oven

First, you need to use a pan again. There you cook with some olive oil garlic, parsley, onion, pine nuts and tomatoes. You cook them for about 5 minutes. Then you take a baking tray where you add some olive oil and then you put in the bottom thin slices of potatoes. Then add onion, parsley, pine nuts, olives and tomatoes that you’ve cooked before. And at the end, you put pieces of baccalà on them. You bake everything about 20 minutes on 180ºC. Delicious!

Buona Appetito!


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