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Salt Cod with Raisins and Pine Nuts in Tomato Sauce (Baccalà in Guazzetto)

Italy has its fair share of recipes using salt cod, and Rome makes two principal contributions to the collection: this recipe, also called baccalà alla romana, and batter-fried salt cod fillets, found in pizzerias as an antipasto alongside fiori di zucca and in the fritto misto of restaurants offering Roman Jewish specialties. This preparation, with raisins and pine nuts, is likely to have migrated north from Sicily. Like fresh fish, salt cod is a standby for meatless Fridays, and even today many food shops presoak the dried fish so their customers can purchase it ready to cook on Friday morning.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb. salt cod fillets 
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • About 2 cups thinly sliced white onion 
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts 
  • 2 heaping Tbs. raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes to soften, drained and squeezed dry 
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree 

Directions:

Rinse the salt cod well in cold running water, then place it in a large bowl with cold water to cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water 3 or 4 times. Drain the salt cod and pat dry. Cut each fillet lengthwise down the middle, then cut crosswise at intervals of 2 1/2 to 3 inches, removing any errant bones or bits of skin. Set aside.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cod and cook, turning as needed, until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes total.

Add the pine nuts, raisins and tomato puree to the pan, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the fish is quite tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. (The dish can be prepared up to this point, cooled, covered and refrigerated, and then reheated gently the next day.)

Transfer the cod and its sauce to a warmed serving dish and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Rome, by Maureen B. Fant (Oxmoor House, 2005).