From Genova to Napoli, many regional Italian cuisines are full of recipes for lo stoccafisso [stockfish, air-dried whitefish, usually cod, haddock, or hake]. But that doesn’t mean lo stoccafisso is native to the Italian peninsula.
The male singular noun stoccafisso has its roots in the Dutch word stokvisch, which means fish on a stick, or fish dried on a stick. Not surprisingly, this is the same root that gives us the English term stockfish.
Indeed, il pesce [fish] used to make lo stoccafisso hails from colder waters of the Atlantic, and Italians have been trading with their Northern neighbors for centuries to get it. Legend has it the Italians discovered this delicious product when a Venetian trade ship spent the winter stranded near the Arctic circle in the 1400s. Until just recently, Italy was the largest importer of Norwegian stoccafisso; these days Nigeria’s demand for the product has surpassed that of the Italians.
Italian shops usually sell lo stoccafisso in a dry, hardened format, sometimes cut into pieces and sometimes as whole fish. As it does need to be soaked for at least 1 day before it can be used in any recipe, you may also see lo stoccafisso sold pre-moistened for your convenience.
Want to try your hand at a stoccafisso recipe? Here are a few to test out:
stoccafisso alla marinara [sea-style stockfish]
stoccafisso in umido [stewed stockfish]
stoccafisso con verdure / alla pugliese [stockfish with vegetables / Puglia-style]
stoccafisso al forno [baked stockfish]
If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!