Master the Art of Making Salt Cod with Chef Mario Batali

Have you ever wanted to make a traditional Italian dish that beautifully captures the flavors of the sea? Look no further than Chef Mario Batali’s recipe for Salt Cod! This dish is a classic component of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, traditionally served on Christmas Eve. So, let’s dive into this delicious recipe and learn how to make it like a pro.

Master the Art of Making Salt Cod with Chef Mario Batali
Master the Art of Making Salt Cod with Chef Mario Batali

Creating the Flavorful Sauce

The first step to making this dish is to prepare a rich and flavorful sauce that will infuse the fish with incredible taste. Heat a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil in a pan and add finely chopped onions. This style of the dish, known as bacala olive a silviana, is inspired by the region of Sous Vyas near Naples, Italy. The volcanic soil in this area lends a unique flavor to the cuisine.

To enhance the sauce, Chef Batali recommends adding a tablespoon of chili flakes and some capers. For the best results, use salt-packed capers from Sicily and rinse them thoroughly. Next, add crushed tomatoes to the pan. Opt for San Marzano tomatoes, known for their exceptional sweetness and richness. These tomatoes, grown in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, bring a unique depth to the dish.

Preparing the Salt Cod

Now that the sauce is simmering away, it’s time to prepare the star of the show – the salt cod. In Italy, you can buy pre-soaked salt cod, but if that’s not available, fresh fish works well too. Soak the cod in water, changing it every six to eight hours for two days until it’s ready to cook.

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Cut the cod into appetizer-sized pieces, approximately 2 to 3 ounces each. Once the sauce is boiling, carefully place the cod fillets into the pan. Remember that the cod is already partially cooked due to the drying process, so be cautious not to overcook it.

Adding the Finishing Touches

To elevate the flavors of the dish, add a delightful herb combination of parsley and mint. Mint may seem unexpected in a savory dish, but it brings a sweet and refreshing note that pairs perfectly with the tomatoes. Finely chop equal parts parsley and mint, reserving some for garnish. Sprinkle the herb mixture into the pan, allowing it to infuse into the sauce.

After just a couple of minutes, the fish will be cooked through, ready to be served. This dish can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature, as is often done in Italy. Let it sit in the flavorful sauce while your guests enjoy their pre-dinner cocktails.

Plating and Serving

Once you’re ready to plate, carefully remove the fish from the pan and drizzle it with some additional extra virgin olive oil. Then, generously spoon the tomato sauce over the fish, and add a final touch of mint leaves. Chef Batali prefers tearing the mint by hand for a more rustic feel. Just before serving, give it a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to enhance the flavors.

Now, you have a stunning plate of baccala alla silviana, ready to impress your guests. The combination of the tender salt cod, the flavorful sauce, and the aromatic herbs creates a dish that celebrates the culinary heritage of Italy.

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Q: Can I use a different type of fish for this recipe?

A: Absolutely! While salt cod is traditional, you can use any fresh fish of your choice. Just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Q: Can I make this dish in advance?

A: Yes, baccala alla silviana can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature. This makes it perfect for entertaining.

Q: Is it necessary to use San Marzano tomatoes?

A: Using San Marzano tomatoes will enhance the flavor of the dish, but if they’re unavailable, look for high-quality crushed tomatoes to achieve the best results.


Chef Mario Batali has shared a cherished Italian recipe for Salt Cod that is sure to impress even the most discerning seafood enthusiasts. With a rich tomato sauce, tender cod, and aromatic herbs, this dish captures the essence of Italian cuisine. So, bring a taste of the Feast of the Seven Fishes to your table and indulge in the flavors of the sea with this delightful recipe from Hook’d Up Bar and Grill.

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