Recipes Main Courses Seafood Acqua Pazza (Fish Simmered in Tomato-Garlic Broth)
Acqua Pazza (Fish Simmered in Tomato-Garlic Broth)

Acqua Pazza (Fish Simmered in Tomato-Garlic Broth)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Acqua pazza literally means "crazy water." Traditionally, it is an Italian dish in which fish is cooked in water flavored with tomatoes and garlic. The liquid becomes a delicious broth that is spooned over the fish.


  • 1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • Pinch of red chili flakes
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 1 Tbs. capers
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 red snapper or striped bass fillets, each about
      6 oz., skin on
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ripe plum tomatoes, oven-dried*
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
  • 30 pitted Kalamata olives
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
  • Olivier Toasted Garlic Oil, to taste


Preheat an oven to 400°F.

In a Dutch oven or deep ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat, warm the 1/4 cup olive oil, add the garlic and sauté, stirring often, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chili flakes, wine, capers and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer while the fish is cooking.

Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper and lightly dust both sides of the fillets with the flour.

In a large sauté pan over high heat, warm the 2/3 cup olive oil until nearly smoking. Arrange the fish, skin side down, in the pan and fry until golden underneath, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the fish to the simmering liquid. Add the oven-dried and cherry tomatoes and the olives. Return to a simmer, transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Return the pan to the stovetop and set over medium heat.

Transfer the fish to warmed individual bowls. Simmer the liquid, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to 6 cups, 4 to 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the parsley and basil over the fish and spoon the sauce over the fish. Drizzle with garlic oil and serve immediately. Serves 6.

* To make oven-dried tomatoes, choose the ripest plum tomatoes available. Preheat an oven to 300°F. Cut each tomato lengthwise into quarters and arrange, sliced side up, on a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Coat the tomatoes lightly with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake the tomatoes until they have lost much of their liquid and have shrunk considerably, about 2 hours.
Adapted from Terra: Cooking from the Heart of Napa Valley, by Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani (Ten Speed Press, 2000).