Spaghetti with Salt Cod and a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Recipe from My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino
(W.W. Norton & Company, © 2010) reprinted with permission

Serves 4–6

  • ½ pound boneless, skinless salt cod
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 28-ounce can Italian San Marzano tomatoes, broken up by hand, with juice
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground hot red pepper or hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 pound spaghetti or bucatini

In the refrigerator, soak the salt cod in water to cover for 2–3 days, changing the water once a day. Thick pieces will need longer than thin ones to rehydrate and shed their salt. Taste the cod after 2 days to see if it is still too salty. Take care not to oversoak or you will drain the cod of all flavor.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over moderate heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Carefully add the tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves in half and add to the saucepan along with salt and hot pepper to taste. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Drain the salt cod and add to the saucepan. Simmer uncovered until the cod flakes easily, 15 to 20 minutes, turning the cod over in the sauce halfway through. Remove and discard the garlic cloves. Shred the cod in the sauce with a fork. Stir in the parsley, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Add ¼ cup kosher salt, then add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta into a colander and return it to the warm pot. Add the sauce and toss well, adding some of the reserved water if needed to thin the sauce. Serve immediately.

This recipe is part of the magazine story, The Feast of Seven Fishes