Back in 2017, I visited Venice for the first time and this was also the first time I tried traditional Venetian Cicchetti. However, I didn’t spot any baccalà during my visit. This might be because at this point in time I had only consumed baccalà in a stew filled with tomatoes and crinkly olives so my knowledge of baccalà mantecato was nonexistent. Then in 2019, my dad went to Venice and spotted baccalà mantecato and after one bite, he knew he needed to figure out how to make it. So, from that year on, we spent time perfecting our baccalà mantecato recipe. Our kitchen experiments usually happened around the Christmas holiday because that is when this fish is the most accessible. During our recipe journey, we learned that mantecato means whipped or creamed because that is exactly the process that we follow to achieve a creamy baccalà mantecato.
So What Is Cicchetti?
Simply put, Cicchetti is Venetian small plates. You can find Cicchetti in bars or restaurants in Venice and there aren’t that many rules for when to eat Cicchetti. Typically, you can have Cicchetti at any time during the day but their intention is more casual, often eaten standing at bars or accompanied by a beverage. However, if you are looking to fill up on Cicchetti then you would find yourself ordering multiple plates that could allow you to sample an array of Cicchetti, which, if you are as food obsessed as I am, sounds absolutely lovely.
Wait Wait, What Even is Baccalà?
Baccalà translates from Italian to salted cod. Despite this fish begin self-preserving, it is really only accessible in American grocery stores from October-December, that’s if you are lucky enough to find it! This is because during the holiday season there are traditional dishes that use Baccalà as the main ingredient. Yet, Italians are not the only culture that adores this timeless ingredient. I found a resource that shares a variety of cultures salted cod creations here.
Check out my baccalà mantecato recipe video below
Baccalà Mantecato (Venetian creamed cod)
Baccalà Mantecato (Venetian creamed cod)
- 2 lbs baccalà This should be soaked for 2-3 days before you begin.
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley + more for garnish
- 2 lemons You will need 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 lemon sliced
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- cool water to cover the baccalà while cooking
- 1 tbsp cool water per 1 cup of creamed baccalà
- Soak the baccalà in water for 2-3 days. You should rinse and drain the water the baccalà is soaking in twice a day.(About every 8-12 hours) Once that is done, fill container you are soaking the baccalà in with fresh water to continue repeating the process
- Slice three garlic cloves and one lemon
- Add baccalà, sliced garlic, sliced lemons (squeeze into the pan before adding), bay leaves, pepper to a sauté pan.
- Cover everything with water in the pan
- Turn the heat on the stove up until liquid comes to a light boil
- Once you see some bubble in the pan bring the heat down
- Cook for 10-15 minutes but watch the fish to make sure you don't over cook it. The thinner the fish, the quicker it cooks. It can take less than 10 minutes if your fish is very thin.
- Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid
- Drain the fish of the remaining liquid
- Place the baccalà in a bowl to cool
- Once cooled break the fish up into smaller pieces (My perfered method is using kitchen scissors)
- Add about 2 tbsps of the cooking liquid into the bowl
- Use immersion blender to slowly begin creaming the fish (See notes for immersion blender alternatives)
- Slowly stream about a quarter of the olive oil in
- Add 1 tbsp of cool water
- Continue mixing and adding olive oil and water slowly until you achieve an mayonasyse consistentcy
- Juice 1 lemon to get 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Chop your parsley (reserve some for garnish)
- Mix in lemon juice, fresh pepper, parsely
- Salt to taste (it might not even need salt depending on how salty your fish was)
- Garnish with a thinly sliced lemon wedge and parsley
- Serve on crusty bread and try not to eat it all in one sitting (Trust me, it's hard!)