Baccalà, or salted codfish, is bound to make an appearance on your Christmas Eve table, but for those who observe Lent, it is a standby for meatless Friday meals. Baccalà marries especially well with tomatoes. Baccalà alla Napoletana, Naples-style codfish, is a simple dish of bold flavors reminiscent of pasta alla puttanesca.
For the baccalà
2 lbs baccalà
For the sauce
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a few sprigs of fresh parsley, stems removed and finely chopped
1 lb fresh tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded
a handful each of capers and olives, preferably the Gaeta variety
Begin by soaking the cod for at least 24 hours (some cooks insist on soaking for a full 48 hours), changing the water every 6-8 hours. Once the water is no longer salty, the cod is ready for the next step. Drain the cod, pat it dry and cut it into serving pieces.
Now make your sauce. In a skillet begin by lightly sautéing the chopped garlic and parsley in olive oil until it just begins to give off its fragrance. Immediately add roughly chopped, very ripe tomatoes and simmer gently. When the tomatoes start to melt into a sauce, toss in a handful each of capers (rinsed) and the olives.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. While the sauce is simmering, lightly flour and fry the baccalà pieces in olive oil until they are lightly browned. When done, transfer them to the skillet with the sauce. When all the baccalà has been added, use a spoon to coat the fish with the sauce.
Place the baccalà and sauce into an oven-safe dish (a lasagna dish is perfect) and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has reduced to a nice consistency. Remove your Baccalà alla Napoletana from the oven, sprinkle with a bit more chopped parsley for color and serve with some nice crusty Italian bread.
Sicilian onion and potato pizza is not only a great recipe for Fridays during Lent, it is a wonderful way to get the kids and grandchildren involved in how to make a true pizza. They are always amazed at how big the dough becomes when it rises. Fun fact: Did you know that more than 50% of all of Italy’s potatoes are grown in Sicily?
For the Dough
1 ½ lb flour
1 cup flour for dusting
1 cup warm water
2 envelopes active dry yeast
2 tablespoons of oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
For the topping
1 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
10 small white potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
6 oz Primosale cheese, or fresh Pecorino cheese sliced thin
4 oz breadcrumbs made by hand from the inside of day old bread
2 oz grated Pecorino cheese
2 scallions, chopped very fine
salt and pepper
Making the Dough
Pour warm water in a bowl, stir in yeast, oil, sugar and salt. Add half of the flour and mix it in. Set the mixture aside in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Place the remaining flour on a flat surface and form a well. Place the mixture into it. Start to mix the flour from the inside of the well and keep incorporating the flour. Add a little more water if it becomes too dry. Mixture should be soft and very malleable. Should it became too watery add more flour.
Using your hands, bring all the flour together to form a ball. Fold and press with the palm of your hands; if dough is sticky, add some more flour. When dough forms a single ball set aside.
Dust the working surface with flour and knead dough by pushing it down firmly to the center. Keep kneading until dough is elastic and has a silky consistency, about 10 minutes. Form a ball and cut across the top to help the leavening process. Cover and let rest for 25 minutes in a warm, dry place. Press and fold the dough, place it in an oiled bowl and refrigerate for a few hours.
Making the topping
Sauté the sliced onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until golden and then set aside. Then repeat the process for the potatoes, sautéing in olive oil until they begin to brown. Set aside. In a bowl, mix scallions with 4 tablespoons of oil and add salt and pepper to taste.
Making the Sfinciuni
When ready to make the pizza, dust the working surface with flour, place dough in the center and flatten it to about ½” thick using a rolling pin or by pressing it down. Place dough in the oiled pan 13” X 9” X 2” inches. Set aside, covered in warm place until dough rises; about 20 minutes. Punch dough and stretch it if necessary. Sprinkle or use a brush to coat the surface of dough completely with the olive oil mixture. Cover with sliced cheese and then top with the potato slices and sautéed onions. In a large bowl, mix breadcrumbs, grated cheese, scallions and a bit of fresh oregano; spread it over the entire surface. Drizzle sparingly with olive oil and bake at 400°F for 30 to 35 minutes or until bottom crust is golden and crispy.
The story behind the sauce is well – rather saucy. Various accounts exist as to when and how the dish originated, but it likely dates to the mid-20th century. Regardless of its origin, it is a delicious recipe!
1 lb spaghetti
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup of black olives
2 tbsp capers
1 large can of tomato sauce
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Meanwhile, lightly sauté the garlic in olive oil over medium flame with anchovies and crushed pepper. Sauté mixture until anchovies melt into oil and completely dissolve and garlic is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the olives, capers, tomatoes, some black pepper and parsley. Bring sauce to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and add the sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.