Ancona-style Cod Fish

Stockfish and Baccala' are beloved fish around Italy, with many Italians holding distinct childhood memories tied to these foods and the dishes prepared with them. It may seem odd that Italy, surrounded by seas, would go crazy over dried imported fish from northern Europe (usually Norway) but they do! Much hails back to pre- and post-War period when inland areas had a hard time getting fresh fish, and a seller would drive around (first with horse- or ox-drawn carts, then with trucks) to sell the dried goods that could be stored and kept for a long time. Folks would cut off a piece as needed, soak it to rehydrate, and have fish for protein and Friday meals, a welcome change from the legumes and little bits of sausage or pancetta they'd add to their meals for flavoring. Thus, it became almost a luxury, and certainly they gathered and savored it.

Now of course with refrigeration, freezers and modern roads to the sea, it is easier than ever to get fresh fish, but those tastes for baccala' and stockfish (stoccafisso) remain! So, what is the difference? Stockfish is cod or haddock that is air-dried, while baccala' is a variety of cods that are salt-cured. This recipe calls for the stockfish, but of course baccala' could be used, or fresh cod or haddock and flounder could be used, as well. It is the Ancona (Le Marche) way of making it -and is delicious!


1 kg (2.3 pounds) stockfish, or fresh cod, flounder or haddock
1 celery stalk
1 carrot, peeled
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
Parsley, marjoram, salt and peppeE
200 grams (1.5 cups or so) fresh or canned tomato pieces (peeled)
1 glass of white wine (Verdicchio from Le Marche is what they use in Ancona)
400 grams (about a pound) potatoes, peeled and sliced thick or cut into wedges
Extra-virgin olive oil


Dice the celery, carrot, onion and garlic, then saute in a generous amount of olive oil in a deep, wide pan. Add the tomato pieces, stir, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the wine. Lay the fish pieces over top, spooning some of the sauce up on top of them. Add the potato slices, cover, and cook over low flame for about an hour and a half, adding more wine or water as needed to keep it from drying out.

Some cooks add olives, and some stir in an anchovy fillet or two, to melt and enrich the sauce. Some like it more tomato-y while others like it less rosso; and finally, some like it brothy and others prefer it drier. So, lots of variations, and it's all up to you!

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