Cod Simmered in Tomato and Saffron Recipe

This exquisite but oh-so-easy fish entree is flavored with saffron, the hand-picked stamen of the saffron crocus.

The original recipe — a beautiful-sounding dish called Filetti di Trigila Agli Stigmi di Zafferano, discovered in a friend’s Italian-language cookbook — calls for red mullet, a Mediterranean fish with a delicate flavor and firm, buttery texture. It only rarely shows up in Pittsburgh fish markets, though, so I substituted Icelandic cod with great success.

Often used because it gives dishes a deep vermilion color, saffron has an earthy, bittersweet flavor that makes its high cost worth every penny. You might also want to splurge on imported Italian tomatoes; the better the tomatoes, the better the sauce.


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 2 to 3 cups canned diced tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon saffron threads
  • 1 pound fresh cod fillet
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions:

  • In a heavy frying pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, tomatoes and saffron threads, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are hot and fragrant.
  • Salt fish fillets. (I cut mine into 5-inch pieces.) Lay fish on top of the tomatoes in the frying pan, and spoon some of the mixture on top. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil. Depending on the thickness of the fillets, you will want to continue cooking the fish for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the flame, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes; the fish will continue to cook while the lid is on. You’ll know it’s done when the fish is opaque and flakes easily. Serve immediately.
  • Serves 2 to 3.

Adapted from Gualtiero Marchesi’s “La Cucina Regionale Italiana.”

[recipe from Pittsburgh Post Gazzette:]

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