Fish in Crazy Water – Pesce all’acqua pazza

Years ago we went to Capri and had a dish that was very simple.  A poached fish filet with a bit of parsley sprinkled on it.  It was very good, and when I asked the waiter why it was called pesce all’acqua pazza, which means fish in crazy water he explained that fishermen used to take home one of the fish of their catch home for dinner in a bucket, and when they got home prepared it with a bit of salt water and whatever was at hand to make tastier – a bit of wine, garlic, parsley.  Probably a story to tell gullible tourists!  In any event, pesce all’acqua pizza is a popular dish in  southern Italy.

From time to time I have cooked  pesce all’acqua pazza, but I never looked up the recipe.  A few days ago I did and was very surprised.  In both Italian and American Internet sites, there is an addition of tomatoes, garlic, parsley, maybe even fennel…What is going on? Ok, I’ll try it this way, I thought.  And, I did.

I like this humble dish because it is oh, so quick, and really, foolproof.  There is one caveat.  One can’t really rely on a recipe and follow it to the letter.  Too much depends on the freshness of the fish filet, its thickness, and personal taste.  I like to include a bit of white wine.  Salt?  To taste.



  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 3 cloves of garlic
  3. 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  4. 2 pompano or red snapper filets
  5. ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  6. 1/3 cup white wine
  7. 1/3 cup of water
  8. 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  9. Salt to taste


  1. In a skillet large enough to fit the fish filets, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the cloves of garlic and allow to soften – about a minute or two
  3. Add the tomatoes and stir to coat with oil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Push the tomatoes and garlic aside, and place the fish filets skin down.
  5. Add the wine.
  6. Add the water.  The liquid should be half up the fish filets.
  7. Bring the liquid to boiling and then immediately lower the temperature to medium low.
  8. Cover the pan.  This step will help the fish poach nicely.
  9. Cook for 7-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish filets.
  10. Remove the garlic cloves, add parsley, and plate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s