Stockfish Messina Style
(“ Stoccafisso alla Messinese” -“Piscistoccu a Ghiotta”)
Stocco or stockfish is preserved fish, dried by the sun and wind in the coastal area of Norway. Big fish are gutted
and hang in special racks from February to March when the temperature, mitigated by the warm Current of the Gulf is
slightly above 32 degrees, is ideal to dry the fish, prevent bacterial growth and protect from insects. After
another period of drying indoors, the stockfish can be brought to faraway markets with no spoilage problems, and it
can be stored for years. The fish mostly used is the cod or other fish of the same large family which includes
Pollock, haddock and hake. Their white lean meat has large flakes and it has a fine and mild taste.
The stockfish has been traded in North Europe for centuries, however it became popular when it was introduced first
in Sicily and then in Southern Italy and all over Europe by the Normans in the XI century: it has more nutrients
than fresh fish, when it is soaked it increases in quantity, it was reasonably priced, and it makes a delicious
When in the XVII century salt was exported in large quantities to the Scandinavian countries, cod and other
whitefish started to be preserved with salt and called
Stockfish and baccala’ are widely used in Sicilian and Italian
cooking and other cuisines worldwide: it is versatile, easy to prepare and very tasty. Once it was a popular
and inexpensive dish; today it is an expensive delicacy that can be found in the best restaurant and cooked at
home as a treat for special occasions or holidays.
In Italy, the most famous stockfish dishes are the Stocco alla
Messinese, Messina’s style stockfish, and Baccala’ alla
Vicentina, Vicenza’s style stockfish; in Vicenza for unknown reasons the stocco
is called baccala’.
When living in Palermo, a few times a year we were invited for dinner by family friends from Messina living in
town. They often cooked piscistoccu,
stockfish, and served it as a piatto
single serving, with fresh bread, good wine and fruits or they served pasta dressed with the sauce of
followed by the fish in its delicious sauce with
potatoes and red wine, fruits and other special delicacies Messinesi.
They cooked the piscistoccu
in the traditional way, with passion, without short
cuts giving to it an unequal taste. In the preparation of this dish, all the ingredients used by all cooks,
are the same except for the tomato: some use salsina,
tomato paste, others use pomidoro,
pureed peeled tomato. Either way the Stocco alla
Messinese though slightly different in its consistency,
still has a delicious taste. Try both versions!
½ lbs. of white medium size potatoes
lbs. dry stockfish
medium onions, chopped
stalks of celery chopped
tablespoons of capers rinsed and roughly chopped
cup of olive oil
cups of pureed peeled tomatoes or 8 oz. tomato paste
tablespoon of seedless currants or raisins
½ tablespoons of pine nuts
cup of parsley finely chopped
cup of green olives, pitted and cut in half
cup of black olives, pitted and cut in half
Dry hot red
peppers flakes, served on the side
Salt and pepper
Pound the stockfish in order to break up its fibers. Place it in a 6 quart sauce pot with about 4 quarts of cold
water. Soak for at least 5 nights, changing the water every 12 hours. It is ready when almost double in
volume. Cut the stockfish into chunks about 2 X 3 inches, eliminate all bones and leave the skin on. At this
point it can be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of 24 hours, until ready to use.
Rinse the potatoes under running water to remove any sand, peel, cut into quarts and place in a large pot with
water until ready to use, so they won’t get oxidized and dark.
Place over a medium heat a large sauté pan with the olive oil, the chopped onions, celery, capers, bay leaf and 1
cup of water. When the water has evaporated, continue sautéing and stir the mixture for a few more minutes until it
is barely light golden in color. Add the pureed peeled tomatoes (or the tomato paste diluted in a cup of water),
and blend into mixture stirring continuously; mix into sauce 2 cup of water, add salt and pepper to taste and place
the fish at the bottom of the pot, skin down. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Uncoverand gently shake the pot.
Continue to cook the stockfish for an additional 20 minutes; uncover and gently shake the pot and add the currants
or raisins, pine nuts, the green and black olives and the parsley. Drain the potatoes and place them in any space
at the bottom of the pot and/or on top of the stockfish. Sprinkle additional salt and pepper over the potatoes and
add some water to almost cover the potatoes. Continue simmering covered, occasionally gently shaking the pot. Add
some water when it seems necessary. When the potatoes are cooked the stockfish is ready. Never stir the pot to
avoid the stockfish from breaking into small pieces.
Remove and discard the bay leaf. Serve hot or warm, place crushed red pepper on the table and plenty of fresh
If you want to make extra sauce double all ingredients except for the stockfish. Any
extra sauce left over can be utilized as a condiment for pasta.