Feast loving Italians go all out for the Christmas holiday dinner and our family is no exception. We start our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve when Charlie makes a fish stew from a recipe handed down to him by my Dad. I don’t ever remember a Christmas Eve without this dish.

I’ve included it in my cookbook BASTA PASTA available now at the market. A dish that my Little Nonna sometimes made was Baccala Stew. I didn’t enjoy the aroma of dried cod soaking in the basement sink, but I sure did look forward to Nonna’s stew. Here is her recipe as I recall it.


Baccala Stew


1 Lb Baccala soaked overnight, cut into chunks and check for any bones.

3 Potatoes – medium sizes, peeled and cubed

2 Stalks Celery – sliced into thin pieces

A splash of Italian white wine – your choice

1 Dozen or so Green Olives – pitted and sliced

Or a handful of Kalamata if you prefer

1 Large Onion – roughly chopped

2-3 Cloves of Garlic – finely chopped

4 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Tbs Butter – unsalted

Salt and Pepper – to taste

A Pinch of Peperoncini

1 28 Oz Can of San Marzano Tomatoes

6-8 Fresh Basil Leaves

½ tsp Bells Seasoning – or more to your taste


Heat the olive oil and the butter in a large pot. Add the garlic, celery onion and saut’e until all are soft. Add a splash of white wine and cook until the wine aroma is gone. Add the tomatoes and crush the tomatoes by hand as they slide into the pan. Add the cubed potatoes, olives and basil leaves. Simmer for about half an hour until the potatoes are soft. Add the fish, that has been rinsed well. Add salt and pepper, pepperoncini and a pinch of Bells Seasoning. Cook on low just until the fish is cooked all the way through. Taste again for seasonings.