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Italian baccala in a skillet topped with a white wine tomato sauce, basil, and lemon.
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5 from 7 votes

Italian Baccala Recipe

Baccala is an easy Italian dish that showcases the rich and savory flavors of salted cod. This recipe consists of pan-seared cod in white wine sauce, making a restaurant-quality meal with bright, citrusy, and herbaceous flavors. Similar to my baked cod in cheese sauce, you’ll be surprised at how simple it is to prepare it at home!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories250 kcal
Cost $ 2.50 per person


  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 Chef's knife
  • 1 medium bowl
  • 1 large skillet preferably non stick
  • 1 large bowl ONLY if using salted cod


For the Cod

  • 1 ½ lbs skinless boneless salted cod (baccalà or bacalao), cut into 4 fillets (or four 6-ounce fillets). NOTE: Alternatively you can use fresh cod fillets! - If you can’t find cod, the most similar substitute is haddock since it’s also part of the same family.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the White Wine Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil OR Sunflower oil, canola oil, and safflower oil all work as well due to their high smoke point.
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes - Alternatively you can also use cayenne pepper, paprika, or chili powder.
  • 3 large cloves garlic finely minced - Garlic powder will work in a pinch. Use ¾-teaspoon in place of the 3 fresh cloves.
  • 1- pint cherry tomatoes sliced in half - If you don’t have cherry tomatoes available, substitute grape tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, or even olives.
  • cup dry white wine Think of varietals like pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, or pinot blanc. If you use chardonnay, make sure it is unoaked.
  • 2 tablespoons capers Add chopped green olives if you don’t have capers on hand.
  • ¼ cup fresh basil finely chopped - Fresh oregano or parsley are also options!
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper more to taste


  • PREPARE THE COD AHEAD: If using SALTED COD, desalt the cod about 2-3 days ahead, as follows:
  • Take the precut portion of codfish and rinse excessive salt under the tap with cold water.
  • Place the fillets in a large bowl of cold water. A general rule is three times as much water as fish. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Change the water 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Some of the thinner cuts of the fish are ready to be cooked after 2 days. For the thickest cuts, it will take 3 days. After this process either cook, refrigerate or freeze for future use. But always pat dry the fillets well with a paper towel before doing any of the above. Before cooking, season both sides of the cod with salt and pepper and reserve.
  • NOTE: The length of the desalting process depends on the thickness of the fish and on how long it has been cured.
  • If using FRESH COD, skip the desalting process. Pat dry the fillets with a paper towel and season both sides of the cod with salt and pepper. Reserve!
  • PREPARE THE WINE SAUCE: Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper flakes and garlic and saute for 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring now and then, until they're soft and blistering, but still hold their shape, about -9-12 minutes.
  • Add in the white wine, stir well, and let the mixture come to a gentle simmer. Stir in the capers, basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, sugar, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes! Transfer the sauce to a medium bowl and set aside until needed.
  • COOK THE COD: Wipe the skillet well and heat it over medium heat. Add an extra 1-2 tablespoon of oil and place seasoned cod fillets in. Cook them until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip the cod over and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, OR until it's cooked through.
  • The time will depend on the thickness of the fillets. Test it with a fork at an angle, at the thickest point of the fillet, and twist gently. If cooked through, the fish will flake easily and it will lose its translucent or raw appearance. Lastly, pour the white wine sauce over the cod, let the sauce warm up for a minute, then remove from heat and serve at once.

Recipe Notes

Storage & reheating
Don’t let the leftovers of your baccala in salsa de vino go to waste! Follow these simple storage and reheating tips to keep everything fresh:
  • Fridge: Allow the fish to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container with a solid lid. Store the cod in wine sauce in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Freezer: Due to the nature of the sauce and the texture of the fish once thawed, I don’t recommend freezing this recipe.
  • Reheating: Reheat baccala in salsa de vino in the microwave in 30-second intervals, checking on it after each one. Just note that the fish will lose some flavor, and the texture may change once it’s reheated. If the sauce has thickened too much, add a touch of water, broth, or white wine to thin it out.


Calories: 250kcal | Carbohydrates: 7.9g | Protein: 31.8g | Fat: 8.4g | Saturated Fat: 1.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5.3g | Cholesterol: 73.1mg | Sodium: 510.1mg | Potassium: 1002mg | Fiber: 1.2g | Sugar: 4.4g | Vitamin A: 769.7IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 52.4mg | Iron: 1.7mg

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