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Baccalà al Ghetto

March 15, 2021
Photo: Dana KlitzbergPhoto: Dana Klitzberg

Celebrating Jewish holidays as an American Jew in Rome—the Catholic caput mundi—can be tricky. Pasqua, originally the term for Passover (from the Hebrew Pesach), now means Easter in modern Italian, while Passover is called Pasqua Ebraica—literally “Jewish Easter.”

But in the historic center of Rome alongside the Tiber River, Rome’s quartiere ebraico, known as the Jewish ghetto, is alive and well, a bustling oasis of Jewish life. And it was here, in my 17th-century apartment on Largo Arenula, that I hosted the first of my annual Passover Seders beginning in 2002 while working as a restaurant chef and private caterer, and teaching cooking classes in Rome. Of all the dishes I prepared for these Roman Seders, perhaps the most representative of my experience is what I’ve dubbed baccalà al ghetto. It’s a marriage of local ingredients and tradition, of kosher-for-Passover pragmatism and creative expression. It also happens to be lick-your-plate delicious.

Featured in: A Roman Spin on the Seder Meal

Great for: Passover


  • 2pounds codfish fillets (or 1 1/2 pounds of dried salted codfish, rinsed in water for 2 days until no longer salty to the taste)
  • ¾cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3cloves garlic, diced
  • 1large red onion, sliced thinly into half moons
  • 1anchovy fillet or 1 teaspoon of collatura di alici
  • 1pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½cup white wine
  • cup red wine vinegar
  • 3tablespoons sugar
  • ½cup toasted pine nuts
  • ½cup raisins, sultanas or golden preferred
  • 1large bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
Yield: Serves 4


Roman Jewish Stewed Codfish—for Passover

  • Step 1

    In a small bowl, stir together vinegar and sugar.

  • Step 2

    Heat large frying pan (with sides that come up a few inches, with a cover) over a medium flame, and pour in 1/2 cup olive oil. When oil is warm, add the onions and garlic. Stir to cook approximately 4 minutes, until translucent.

  • Step 3

    Add half of the cherry tomatoes and the anchovy or collatura, and cook for 2 minutes.

  • Step 4

    Add the white wine, and turn up the heat to medium-high to cook off the alcohol, stirring. Add a pinch of salt.

  • Step 5

    Add the raisins and pine nuts, and a splash of olive oil, and stir.

  • Step 6

    Sprinkle the fish fillets with salt and pepper just before placing them in the sauté pan. Nestle the fillets in the tomato-onion sauce, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover and cook for 7 minutes.

  • Step 7

    Remove the cover and add the rest of the tomatoes, and the red wine vinegar-sugar mixture, stir, and cook over medium-low heat uncovered until the fish is cooked through—about 5 minutes more or until the fish is opaque and firm to the touch.

  • Step 8

    Transfer fillets to a platter.

  • Step 9

    Add in the rest of the olive oil for a saucy consistency. The fish, in cooking, will give off water so we’re trying to emulsify the sauce by adding the olive oil. Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning. Finish the sauce with the chopped parsley and stir. Pour the sauce over the fish, or make beds of the sauce on plates and serve the fish fillets on top. Serve warm or later, at room temperature.