Merluzzo alla Palermitana (Baked Cod With Crust)

This is my favorite way of preparing cod. And so I was surprised to find that I had not yet shared it with you on my blog, when I did the post about what we eat on a daily basis. The cod is baked in the oven with a flavorful crust of breadcrumbs with capers, olives, lemon zest, parsley, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil. By using a digital thermometer with a probe, the cod will always come out perfectly cooked. And you can just as easily bake 2 or 4 or 8 or 12 portions at once, so this is also great for dinner parties.

You can change the flavors of the crust to your own liking. You could also use sundried tomatoes instead of olives or dried or fresh oregano instead of parsley, for example. Instead of cod you could also use another white firm fleshed fish from which you can cut thick steaks (they need to be about 2.5 centimeters or 1 inch thick for the fish and the crust to be cooked in the same time).


Serves 2

2 cod loin steaks of about 150 grams (5-6 oz) each

1/2 Tbsp salted capers, rinsed and minced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil + more for brushing the fish

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley

grated zest of 1/2 lemon

2 anchovy fillets, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 Tbsp pitted black olives, minced (I used Taggiasca olives)

30 grams (3 Tbsp) dried breadcrumbs

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Season the cod with salt on both sides, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. The amount of salt should be about 1% of the weight of the cod, so 3 grams (about 1/2 teaspoon) for 300 grams of cod. The salt will improve the texture and flavor of the fish. Do not use too much salt, because the crust is also quite salty.

Mince the capers, garlic, parsley, anchovies, lemon zest, and olives until they are very fine. This is called a battuto in Italian.

Transfer the battuto to a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons of dried breadcrumbs, and a few grinds of black pepper, and stir until mixed. If it looks too dry, add a bit more olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 225C/440F.

Take the cod out of the refrigerator, and pat dry with paper towels.

Brush the fish lightly with olive oil on all sides, and place the fish on a baking sheet lined with oven paper.

Place half of the prepared crust mixture on each of the cod steaks, using a spoon or your fingers to compact the crust.

Insert the probe of a digital thermometer into one of the cod steaks, such that the tip of the probe is in the center of the cod. My oven comes with a probe, but you could also use a separate digital thermometer with a cord, such that the display can be kept outside of the oven.

Bake the cod at 225C/440F until the core temperature reaches 50C/122F, then take it out of the oven immediately. This will take about 10 minutes. All ovens are different. If the crust isn’t brown by the time the core temperature reaches 50C/122F, it means you will need a higher temperature next time you prepare this. Or vice versa, if the crust gets burnt, a lower temperature.

Serve on preheated plates.

This is nice with oven roasted potatoes on the side.

Wine pairing

This is great with a dry Italian white such as a Verdicchio or Gavi. To stay in Sicily, a Grillo would also work if it is not too acidic.


Sea bass with sweet & sour savoy cabbage is a great way to turn something boring like cabbage into something very nice.

6 thoughts on “Merluzzo alla Palermitana (Baked Cod With Crust)

  1. Love this. I’ve started using breadcrumbs and panko more than I ever used to. It’s a wonderful ingredient! The recipe combines many of my favorite ingredients, and I have cod in the freezer. I’ll have to make it for one!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A flavourful idea to ring changes in my fish cooking. Usually steam or grill or shallow-fry . . . so this will be a welcome difference with tastes I love. Not much cod in Australia . . . but there are many alternates including orange roughy . . . shall see . . . Have also taken note of your meat suggestion above . . .

    Liked by 1 person

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