Cod with pine nuts and olives

Cod with pine nuts and olives

Stocchetto alla portercolese

By
From
Acquacotta
Serves
4
Photographer
Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

This is the dish that often gets mentioned first if you ask someone from Porto Ercole for a typical local recipe. Stocchetto refers to the dried and salted fish that was once a cheap, staple protein – like stoccafisso (air-dried cod) or baccalà (dried salted cod). But, in this case, it’s not cod from Norway – it’s ficamaschia, the local term for melù or blue whiting, a relative of the cod. It’s abundant in the waters around Monte Argentario, and is usually eaten in fried form but often crumbed, too.

It’s hard to find stocchetto outside Porto Ercole, where there is a long history of preparing it. Actually, you can rarely buy it even there, unless you know a local fisherman, as the fillets are traditionally prepared on-board the fishing boats while at sea. The fish are filleted, salted, then the fillets left to dry for a day or two before being consumed by the fishermen and their families – it’s a sort of rustic, ‘poorer’ baccalà.

Because ficamaschia a stocchetto is so difficult to find, this recipe uses fresh cod fillets instead, but you could also use haddock or baccalà.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
800g fresh cod fillets or pre-soaked baccala
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
freshly chopped red chilli or dried chilli flakes, (optional)
1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked and chopped
125ml dry white wine
400g tinned chopped tomatoes or tomato passata
3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 x 2 cm chunks
150g quality black olives in brine
2 tablespoons pine nuts
tuscan bread, (or other crusty white loaf), to serve

Method

  1. Remove the cod or baccalà’s skin (if any) and bones (they are large and should be easy to spot and pull out). Chop into chunks and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a flameproof casserole dish and gently cook the onion, chilli (if using) and rosemary over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is very soft but not coloured (you can add a splash of water or turn down the heat if it begins to colour). Add the fish, followed by the wine, and turn the heat up to medium. Let it cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour over the tomato and the potatoes, then add enough water to cover, about 250 ml. Bring back to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft and a fork easily pierces them, about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning (and remember to taste the olives to get an idea of how much salt they’ll bring to the dish) and add a pinch of salt as needed. If the sauce reduces too much during this time, top up with a little water. Add the olives and pine nuts and remove from the heat.
  4. Serve as a main course with plenty of crusty Tuscan bread for mopping up the sauce.

Note

  • You can find baccalà in an Italian supermarket or deli in two forms: dried or soaked. The soaked version is usually done by the same vendor who sells it dried and it simply makes things easier for you as it is ready to go. But it is nice to have it dried so you can soak it yourself to your liking. Usually it needs to be soaked for at least 24 hours, but some will suggest 2–4 days, changing the water twice a day. Fresh cod fillets are my preference, even if the texture of baccalà is close to the real thing.
Tags:
Italian
Tuscany
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