Fish in Crazy Water


Who could ever resist trying a recipe with such a great name (which is a translation of the Italian, pesce all'acqua pazza). What is truly crazy is how simple it is to make an intensely flavored, water-based poaching liquid for fish fillets. Marcella Hazan was introduced to the dish by her friend from Amalfi, Pierino Jovine, and her first reaction was, "Who wants to eat fish in water?" As it turns out, water is the magic liquid that reveals and melds all the flavors.  Slideshow: Italian Seafood Recipes 

Fish in Crazy Water
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins


  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes—coarsely chopped, juices reserved

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley

  • 1/8 teaspoon chopped fresh red chile, or more to taste

  • Salt

  • 4 cups water

  • Four 6-ounce red snapper fillets, skin on

  • 4 slices of grilled sourdough bread


  1. In a deep skillet that's large enough for the fish fillets to lie flat without overlapping, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, parsley, chile, a large pinch of salt and the water. Cover the skillet and bring the water to a steady simmer over moderate heat; simmer for 45 minutes.

  2. Uncover the skillet and boil the liquid until it has reduced by half. Add the fish, skin side up, and cook for 2 minutes. Using two spatulas, gently turn the fillets. Season the fish with salt and simmer until just cooked through.

  3. Put the grilled bread in shallow bowls and arrange the snapper fillets on top. Spoon the broth all around and serve.

Suggested Pairing

Zippy, mineral-edged Pinot Grigio.

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