Baccalà alla Livornese (Salt Cod and Potatoes in Tomato Sauce) is an Italian fish recipe typical of the Tuscan tradition.
The recipe we are going to show you is the authentic Italian recipe of salted codfish with potatoes and tomato sauce; a unique dish, complete and really delicious!
Baccalà alla Livornese recipe is quite simple, although it requires many steps in its execution. First of all, prepare a tomato sauce made with sautéed onion. Separately, cook the floured pieces of salt cod. Finally put the codfish and potatoes in the tomato sauce and finish cooking.
You can cook cod in many different ways. Italians are very fond of Baccalà and all over Italy there are many different recipes, according to local customs and traditions. Almost every Italian region has its own version and its typical recipe.
Baccala, with its particular taste and its tender meats, is ideal for various types of preparations. The fried Baccala of Rome, the Ligurian Brandacujun, the creamy Venetian codfish to spread on croutons, not to mention the many variations of salt cod with tomato sauce!
We recommend serving Salt Cod and Potatoes in Tomato Sauce (Baccala alla Livornese) very hot and with many slices of homemade bread or with steaming creamy polenta, so you can enjoy its delicious sauce!
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Baccalà alla Livornese Recipe | Salt Cod and Potatoes in Tomato Sauce
- Prep Time: 20 Min
- Cook Time: 1 Hour
- Servings: 6-8
- 800 g ( 1,3 lb) of Salt Cod
- 2 big potatoes
- 100 g (1 cup) of “00” flour
- 100 ml (1/2 cup) of dry white wine
- fine salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 400 g (1 1/2 cup) of tomato passata or 600 g (2 cups) of peeled tomatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
If you have to desalt the cod, then you need a handy container to soak the fish in. We recommend a lightweight plastic bowl because it’s more practical when you need to change the water. Also, it’s better if the bowl is very big because the water has to cover the salted cod completely.
To prepare the recipe you will need two pans. The first smaller, a stainless steel saucepan with lid to make the tomato sauce. The second pan have to be larger, because it must contain the well-spaced codfish pieces, the tomato sauce and the potatoes.
To serve the Baccalà alla Livornese we racomand this terracotta pot, very nice and characteristic. Terracotta maintains the temperature of Baccalà alla Livornese longer.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have codfish still with salt, you CANNOT use it immediately. We recommend 2 to 3 days of soaking in water before cooking it (read the paragraph below ” How to Desalt Baccala”).
Step 1) – To make Baccalà alla Livornese, first of all clean and slice the onions quite finely. Then peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes of about 3 cm (1/3 inch). Set the potatoes aside.
Step 2) – In a pan heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil, add the whole garlic clove and the onion slices. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water and cover with the lid. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, until the onion has softened.
Step 3) – Now add the tomato passata or peeled tomatoes and a pinch of salt for flavor. Stir and cover with a lid. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
Step 4) – While the tomato sauce is cooking, start preparing the fish. First DESALT THE CODFISH reading the paragraph below “How to Desalt Baccala”.
Cut the desalted cod into slices of about 5 cm (2 inch). Carefully flour the pieces of salt cod on each side.
It’s not necessary to remove the skin of the Baccala. The skin is very thin and free of scales and helps keep the fish together during cooking.
Step 5) – Now heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. The pan should be quite large because it needs to accommodate the fish, tomato sauce and potatoes.
Place the cod, browning it on both sides. Turn it gently then add ground black pepper to taste. Add the white wine and let it evaporate over medium-high heat.
How to Cook Baccala alla Livornese
Step 6) – After about 15 minutes the tomato sauce is ready. Remove the garlic and pour the sauce into the pan with salt cod. Cover with lid and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Step 7) – Add the diced potatoes then cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. Stir very gently so the fish do not flake. If the sauce is too dry, add half a cup of water.
Step 8) – After about 30 minutes the cod is cooked, the sauce reduced and the potatoes soft. Your Baccalà alla Livornese is ready! Turn off the heat, taste and add a little salt if necessary. Finish with 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley and serve hot.
How to Store Baccala alla Livornese
You can store baccala alla livornese in a ceramic dish covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Or keep it sealed in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Freezing is not recommended.
How to Desalt Baccala
If you have codfish still with salt, you CANNOT use it immediately. We recommend 2 to 3 days of soaking in water before cooking it. Here’s how to do it.
First, remove excess salt from the surface of the salt cod.
Rinse the fillets in cold water for 10 minutes. Prepare a large bowl or container by filling it with cold water.
Depending on how salty and intense a flavor you want, soak the fish for 2 to 3 days. Make sure it is fully submerged with enough water to cover the fish.
Remember that the longer it’s soaking, the more delicate the flavor becomes. It would be best to change the water 2 or 3 times a day.
If you buy cod already desalted, just rinse it a little in running water and it’s ready to use.
Salt Cod in Italy: Regional Variants
Cod fish is a popular fish in Italy that can be enjoyed in many recipes and in many ways, from appetizers to main courses.
In Northern Italy, especially in Veneto and Liguria, prevail the recipes with cod fish without tomato.
On the contrary, in the Center-South of Italy, with the exception of the famous fried codfish Roman style, there are many variants of cod fish with tomato.
The most famous recipe of cod fish with tomato sauce in Italy is Baccalà alla Livornese – described above – from which all other recipes come, with few differences. Let’s see some of them.
Baccalà alla Napoletana
The method does not differ much from Baccalà alla Livornese. After having floured the pieces of codfish, you must fry them in plenty of seed oil. Then add them to the tomato sauce with Gaeta capers, olives and oregano. Without the addition of potatoes.
Salt Cod alla Romana with Tomato Sauce
Besides the slice of fried cod, in Rome there is also an excellent recipe of codfish with tomato sauce. The method is similar to the Livornese recipe. The particularity of this recipe is the addition of pine nuts and raisins to the tomato sauce.
Sicilian Salt Cod Recipe
The Sicilian recipe for Baccalà differs from the one from Livorno because of the higher quantity of potatoes and the generous addition of black olives and hot chilli peppers. In some parts of Sicily pine nuts and raisins are also added.
What is Baccalà?
Baccalà means salted cod fish in English.
To explain further, cod fish has different names depending on what it looks like. It’s simply called cod or “merluzzo” in Italian when it’s fresh.
Similarly, it’s called stokfish or “stoccafisso” in Italian when it’s air cured.
Baccalà is the name for cod that has been cured, or preserved, with salt.
Where Does Baccalà Come From?
Although it’s known as an Italian food, baccalà was brought to Italy from the colder north.
Its history can be traced back to ancient times, particularly the Middle Ages, when Viking sailors fished for cod in the cold seas of the North Atlantic.
They preserved cod by either drying it in the cold winds of the northern seas or salting it.
The nutritious dried cod kept well and could sustain sailors on their long and difficult voyages.
Once introduced to the Mediterranean, cod became a highly traded commodity.
When cod arrived in Italy, it first spread to coastal areas brought by Northern European explorers.
This is how Livorno got to know this practical way of preserving cod and soon introduced it in its cooking, becoming a typical dish.