Acqua Pazza with Sea Bass


Acqua Pazza with Chilean Sea Bass

Intro Collage

“This classic Neapolitan fish preparation is both delicate and full of flavor.  The term aqua pazza {“crazy water” in Italian} refers to both the dish and the poaching broth, which is stained red from tomatoes and aromatic with garlic and herbs.  It’s one of those satisfying dishes, like San Francisco’s cioppino, created by fisherman who would make it on board with their catch of the day and a few other simple ingredients.  We like to use black sea bass or red snapper, but any non-oily fish will do.”  ~ Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton in Canal House Cooking, Volume 8:  Pronto!

Acqua Pazza…such a big name for an incredibly simple dish.  Tonight, I prepared this dish using Chilean sea bass filets and the delicate broth {tomatoes floating in a mixture of white wine and water spiked with fresh oregano, garlic, parsley and crushed red pepper} provided an abundance of flavor without adding weight to the light, flaky fish.


The original recipe calls for ripe plum tomatoes, with the seeds removed, but sweet cherry tomatoes were waiting in my refrigerator and needed to  be used and they worked fine in the finished sauce.


Simply halving these small gems and not fussing with the few seeds they contain, expedited an already speedy dinner preparation…


After a quick sauté, thinly sliced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes are joined with the remaining ingredients and a broth is born…


After reaching a boil, the heat is lowered and the broth simmers until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes…


The fish filets are then added and cooked until opaque…our thick filets took about 5 minutes…


A healthy, satisfying dinner in about 30 minutes…


Acqua Pazza
Serves 4
Tender white fish is poached in a delicate broth packed with flavor.
  1. 1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  2. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  3. 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  4. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  5. 1/2 cup dry white wine
  6. 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  7. 1 bunch fresh parsley, divided
  8. Salt and pepper
  9. 4 Chilean sea bass filets
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the oil is fragrant yet the garlic remains golden (not browned), 2-3 minutes.
  2. Tie the sprigs of oregano together with some kitchen string and do the same with half of the bunch of parsley (this will make it easier to remove these herbs prior to serving) and add both herbs as well as the tomatoes, wine and 4 cups of cool water to the sauté. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer the broth until it is slightly reduced, about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the remaining parsley leaves (discarding the stems). Add the parsley, a generous pinch of salt and some pepper to the broth. Season the fish filets with salt, then place them in the simmering broth (the fish should not be submerged). Cook until the fish is opaque, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the sprigs of oregano and parsley.
  4. Use a fish spatula to arrange the fish on a deep serving plate or on 4 deep plates. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Spoon the tomatoes and broth over the fish and frizz;e with some olive oil. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Canal House Cooking, Volume 8: Pronto!
Torn pieces of rustic bread make a simple side, useful for soaking up all of that delicious broth!


K Medium 


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