Fish in crazy water

Fish in crazy water

Pesce all’acqua pazza

The Amalfi Coast
Helen Cathcart

This dish is all about the fish! I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s about getting a really fresh fish, cooking it simply and quickly, and enjoying its flavour. The water is turned ‘crazy’ with the addition of tomatoes, chilli and salt. A friend of ours told us that when eating out, she’ll ask if wine is used in the sauce, and if so, she will simply eat elsewhere! In her opinion even the addition of chilli is a step too far; she feels that acqua pazza should contain only garlic, salt and black pepper, olive oil, parsley and of course the ripest, most flavourful tomatoes you can lay your hands on.

Now, bearing in mind that the lucky Amalfitani live next door to their very own 24/7 fresh fish counter and the flavours of the tomatoes grown around Vesuvio are really strong, I think it’s fair to make some allowances. I live inland and as far from any sea as you can get in the UK, so if I want to eat a dish like this I would recommend adding a good splash of homemade shellfish stock in place of the water.


Quantity Ingredient
4 garlic cloves
2 whole small sea bream, cleaned and deboned
or 1 large sea bass, cleaned and deboned
salt and freshly ground black pepper
‘00’ or plain flour, to coat the fish
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped, depending on strength
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
600ml hot water or fish stock
handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


  1. Put 1 whole clove of garlic inside the cavity of each fish and finely slice the other cloves for the sauce. Season and flour the fish and tap off the excess flour. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the fish for about 5 minutes on each side, remove the fish, then discard the oil from the pan.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the sliced garlic, chilli and cherry tomatoes for 2 minutes, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the hot water or fish stock and bring to the boil. Allow it to boil viciously until the liquor reduces. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.
The AmalfiCoast
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