“Stocco di Mammola”, the Calabrian taste of Flanders stockfish


Mammola is a beautiful town near Reggio Calabria, famous as the land which, thanks to its nature between the mountains and the seas, is able to offer a vast gastronomic panorama to those who live and visit it.

The five Calabrian provinces (Cosenza, Crotone, Reggio Calabria, Vibo Valentia and Catanzaro) are linked to each other by a culinary tradition that has humble and ancient origins.

A sight of Mammola (Church of Madonna del Carmine)

The dishes, which connect all five Calabrian provinces, are few and differ, above all, in their preparation. Among the most common dishes, there is stockfish, especially the local recipe of “Stocco di Mammola” (literally the “stockfish of Mammola”), which is a little bit modified in every province.


Stockfish has a very ancient history. In 1431 the noble Venetian merchant Pietro Querino and his crew, from the return of Flanders, were caught by surprise by a storm. After days at sea, the ship ran aground in an archipelago of the Arctic Circle: the Lofoten Islands.

Lofoten Islands

Suffering the cold and after finishing the food, they decided to go in search of food. They found a huge fish stranded on the rocks and decided to cook it on the beach. The smoke caused by the cooking of the fish, intrigued the inhabitants of the island in front that they ran to see who was on that abandoned island. Found the castaways, they took them to their lodgings offering hospitality.

The crew and the Venetian nobleman remained with the population until the arrival of spring: they arranged the boat and returned to Venice with a great and exquisite novelty: the stockfish.

Five hundred years later, in 1932, a monument was held in the Lofoten Islands in memory of the cultural, gastronomic and ethnic link between Italy and those distant islands.

Today the Norwegian archipelago is the most important producer of stockfish in the world and Italy is the largest importer, through the ports of: Naples, Ancona, Vicenza and Liguria.

Norway, a link with Calabria


Stocco di Mammola is a dish of Calabrese origin. Of humble origins, it was consumed above all by the poor. In particular, the peasants consumed it and offered it to the laborers during the most strenuous jobs that were carried out in the countryside.

Traditionally, the stockfish is consumed during Christmas and is also given for personal use and consumption. This is a legacy deriving from the custom that many migrants had, at their return they brought to relatives the stockfish as a gift.

To date, the Stocco di Mammola is a true symbol of pride in the village of Mammola (on the Aspromonte mountains), in the province of Reggio Calabria. For this reason the municipal administration of Mammola has recognized the product as “De.Co.“, Denominazione Comunale di Origine (Municipal Protected Origin). Furthermore, the Ministry for Agricultural Policies has included it among the Agro-Food Traditional products.

Since 1500, stockfish is imported from Norway in Calabria and from Flanders and is processed by the various companies present in the Calabria area. The processing takes days, is divided into phases and requires a high level of craftsmanship.

Flanders, a link with Mammola

The town of Mammola celebrates its product with the traditional “stockfish festival“, which takes place every year in August in the ancient village of Mammola. This festival attracts hundreds of tourists and curious people who are ready to buy the product or savor it respecting tradition, in the various local restaurants.



  • 1 kg of “Stocco di Mammola” sponged in pieces
  • 1 kg of potatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 dried peppers
  • 1 kg of peeled tomatoes
  • EVO oil
  • Olives in brine


In a terracotta pot, sauté the sliced onion in the oil. Then put the peeled tomatoes and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Stocco di Mammola

Add salt and the potato wedges and after a few minutes the stockfish with the olives and peppers. Cook over low heat without stirring but shaking the whole pan for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and after serving, let rest the stockfish for a few minutes serve.

The Calabrian Caviar: the “Sardella” or “Rosamarina”


There is a goodness inside Calabrian cuisine, the so-called “Sardella” or “Rosamarina”, it comes from a cream of pilchard, a mixture of newborn fish, which in local dialect is the “nunnata” (namely a newborn fish).

Even if the ‘nduja (a very spicy cream of salami) is the identifying product of Calabria, especially abroad, we could consider this cream of pilchard as the sister of the famous salami’s cream, but in a fish version.

The names of this caviar of newborn fish can vary, indeed this is called “rosamarina” on the Tyrrhenian Sea, while on the Ionic coast it is called “sardella”.

A fixed couple: Tropea onion + Sardella


It is mostly certain that that the pilchard is a revisitation of the ancient “Garum” of which the ancient Romans were delighted. This was a fish-based sauce, but less refined than the version made in Calabrian homes.

– The Garum is mentioned 20 times by Marcus Gavius Apicius (in his famous cookbook “De re coquinaria”), who was a Roman gourmet and lover of luxury, who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius.

Pliny the Elder in Naturalis historia (XXXI, 93 ff.) said that the best garum was the garum sociorum, made with mackerel and coming from Spain, produced by a Tunisian society of Phoenician origin, which it exported mainly to Italy. This was expensive as a perfume. There were also famous garum factories in Italy, Campania, Pompeii, Clazomene and Leptis Magna.

Soft bread (pitta) with sardella

Seneca in a letter to Lucilius (Epistulae ad Lucilium, XV, 95, 25), launching his arrows against food excesses, especially against the garum: “illud sociorum garum, pretiosam malorum piscium saniem, non credis urere salsa tabe praecordia?” (“And that sauce that comes from the provinces – is the garum sociorum of which also Pliny spoke – an expensive mess of dead fish, don’t you think that you burn your guts with its spicy rot?”).

– Describing the dinner offered by Trimalcyon in Satyricon (36, 3), Petronius describes in great detail a huge tray, in the center of which a hare in imitation of Pegasus prevails, and at the corners four statuettes of Marsyas, from whose garnets flow garum sauce and pepper on a fish placed in a canaletto supported in such a way as to seem alive and to swim in the sea.

– Finally, Martial – in Epigrammata (XI, 27, 2) – he praises a friend of his called “Flaccus” who can resist the smell emanating from a girl who drank six measures of garum. Further, in the epigram III, 77, 5 he criticizes the use of “putris allec” (putrid herring) in dishes.

Conclusively, this quick list of historical testimonies speaks a lot about our sardella, like a fantastic legacy of ancient gastronomy and returns with a pinch of nostalgia a precious tradition.

Sardella rustic puff pastries


The Calabrian sardella is a delicious heritage of Mediterranean cuisine, but it is cheap and good.

Instead, the garum derived from the entrails of the fish which were treated together with a large quantity of salt (indeed, the mixture was macerated in the sun for long periods, releasing the liquamen, very similar to the current anchovy sauce) and it was expensive. Garum was a product for rich families who could afford the product by paying considerable sums, and it was used as a condiment.


The main problem for the preparation of sardella, this wonderful fish cream, is to find the raw material, that is the juvenile sardines. Their fishing is regulated by very strict laws and can only be carried out between January and March, giving exception to the article 15 of the European CE 1967/2006 regulation, which prohibits this fishing.

Therefore, a good substitute is on sale, easily available: the so called ice-fish that is found, defrosted, in the fish market or, frozen, in the supermarkets. However, it is not suitable for the preparation of our sardella of pilchard, that obviously needs newborn anchovies or sardines, and has a color tending to gray as opposed to ice-fish, that is white.



  • 1 kg of newborn pilchrad
  • 50 grams (minimum) of ground hot pepper
  • Dry wild fennel

If you want, you can add sweet ground chilli.


  1. Wash the newborn fish well until the water is clean.
  2. Put the fish in a container with salt and put a weight on the cap.
  3. Squeeze the fish sauce and season with the red pepper and wild fennel.
  4. Homogenize and place in glass jars with a layer of olive oil.


The pilchard can be eaten purely on the bread or it can be used to flavor pasta. It is also excellent with eggs, as an omelette, or on a fried egg. Good in potato boats or in the typical “pitta”, a soft bread.

Puff pastry rustic, full of Sardella


Sardella is a versatile product. The only care is eating it in small quantity because it is particularly spicy.

Crucoli (KR) is the town of this Sardella, but also Cirò Marina (KR), Cariati (CS) and Trebisacce (CS) claim paternity. Crucoli promotes this typical product with a festival that takes place continuously in the historic center since 1970, every second Sunday in August.

It is protected as Traditional Italian Agri-food Product (so called PAT). The Pat are products included in a special list, established by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food, Forestry and Tourism Policies with the collaboration of the Regions.

Considering that the ban on fishing may make it lose its production, consumption and tradition, if you come to Calabria it would be a shame not to try it!