Salt Cod with Leeks Recipe

Salt Cod with Leeks

Baccalà con i Porri is a well known and dearly loved Italian recipe. Salted and dried codfish is an old-fashioned food that has outlived this form of preservation. Salted cod could be stored for long periods and transported easily. No wonder it was historically a very important source of protein in many different cultures.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 60 minutes plus 24-48 hrs desalting in advance


  • 1 lb (450 g) salt cod, salt content adjusted
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb (450 g)leeks cut into slices
  • 1 medium-sized onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fish or vegetable broth or more
  • 1 lb (450 g) ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (7 g) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • salt to taste (subject to saltiness of the cod)
  • juice of 1 lemon or to taste

Bacalhau is a fish, traditionally codfish, that is cured by dry-salting it. It’s a very old and sustainable method to preserve fish. Mostly associated with the Portuguese cuisine it also has its place in Spain (bacalao), Southern France (morue salée) and Italy (baccalà and stoccafisso).

Desalting bacalhau is absolutely necessary. How long you soak depends on the thickness of the cut and how dry it is. In my opinion it is best to soak it for at least 24 hours, may be 48 hours, changing the water 2 – 3 times a day. Supermarkets in Portugal often sell “bacalhau demolhado”, the already-soaked and desalted bacalhau. However its best to do a testrun first. Cook a small piece of cod in barely simmering water for 10 minutes and then let it cool. It should be mildly saline. Keep in mind that pan frying or roasting bacalhau, might cause residual salt to concentrate and render a saltier taste to the finished dish.


Bring enough water to cover the salt cod to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook it for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and place it on a plate until ready to use. Check for any hidden fish bones.

Warm 5 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and leeks. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the fish or vegetable broth and bring it to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until onion and leeks are soft – about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the salt cod chunks and continue cooking for another 20 minutes or until cod starts to flake but not fall apart. Check now and then turning the tomato-cod mix gently to prevent sticking on the bottom of the saucepan. If necessary add a bit of broth or water.

Shortly before serving, add the chopped parsley, freshly ground pepper and the lemon juice. Serve with new potatoes, a drizzle of olive oil or a crusty bread to mop up the juices.

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