Baccalá in Spicy Ugly Sauce

Serves 4-6


Made with spicy Ugly Sauce & Tomato ‘Nduja


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 small onion, cut in half

1/2 of a red pepper, cut into 2 large pieces

1 tblspn spicy Tomato ‘Nduja, optional

2 jars spicy Ugly Sauce

1 pound spaghetti pasta, cooked

1 1/2 pounds baccalà, prepared (see Nonna’s Note)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Sea Salt, if needed

Photo by DeLallo

Photo by DeLallo


  1. Prepare and soak your baccalá at least 3 days prior. Follow Nonna’s Note (see below) to learn how to prepare your baccalá, step by step.

  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and pepper pieces and allow to cook until they just begin to get golden in color and the onion have softened, about 8 minutes. Add spicy Tomato ‘Nduja and spicy Ugly Sauce, then bring to a soft boil, stirring often. Lower the heat, add the baccalà pieces and simmer for 20 minutes.

  3. Add the chopped parsley and season, as needed, with salt and simmer for another 10 minutes. Be careful not to over-salt, as the fish may already bring enough salt to the finished sauce. Turn off the heat and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve this sauce with spaghetti cooked al dente.

  4. The baccalá sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Nonna’s Note: Baccalà— Italian for salted codfish—Dried and salted fish doesn’t sound like something to get too excited about. But if you ask an Italian about baccalà you’ll see their eyes light up. Salt-dried cod has been used in Mediterranean recipes for thousands of years and it has become a Christmas Eve favorite for many Italian families (including my own).

Salt-dried cod is delicious when prepared correctly. It’s slightly firm and mild in flavor, and it pairs well with acidic flavors, such as tomatoes, marinated artichokes, and capers. Here are some helpful tips to bring your baccala to life:

  1. When you pick out a piece of baccalà remember that the color of the fish should be close to white and the skin light colored. If the color tends towards yellow, do not buy it.

  2. If sold whole, try to buy a long, thick fish; if possible it should be a bit more than one-inch thick in the middle of the filet.

  3. If it’s not already packed and wrapped in plastic, and you’re allowed to smell it, remember that its odor, even if a bit intense, must be of fish and nothing else (no chemical smells should be evident).

  4. At least two days prior to cooking (but I recommend 3 days), you should begin soaking your salted baccalà in fresh water (at least 36-48 hours). First wash the pieces thoroughly, eliminating all the salt on the surface, and then completely submerge in any container that will hold a lot of water; change the water at least three times a day (every eight hours or even more frequently).

  5. Just before cooking, peel off the skin and eliminate any bones—a pair of small pliers will be very helpful for this.