Recipe: Fish in Crazy Water

updated Feb 3, 2020
Fish in Crazy Water
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(Image credit: Maria Midoes)

It’s hard not to be intrigued by a dish with a title like this. Leave it to the Italians to name a recipe that lends a few laughs. What the heck makes the water so crazy? Actually, not much at all, which is why you should ditch your original plans for dinner and make this simple, comforting recipe instead.

The Craziest (and Best) Water Around

Crazy water, or acqua pazza as it translates to in Italian, is nothing but an easy tomato-based broth, enhanced with a few aromatics and herbs. Traditionally from the coast of the Italian region of Campania, the broth is most commonly used as a poaching liquid for white fish, but can be used to poach other ingredients like shrimp or a mix of vegetables.

(Image credit: Maria Midoes)

Fresh tomatoes are really what make this recipe special, as they’re gently simmered with nothing but garlic, a few herbs, and water. It’s the perfect late-summer recipe for when you’re growing weary of eating all those sweet, juicy tomatoes raw, but aren’t quite ready to toss them aside completely for a slow-cooked sauce. While the broth is nearly perfect slurped up with a spoon, I suggest keeping crusty bread nearby to dunk and swipe at your pleasure.

Fish in Crazy Water

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    ripe tomatoes (about 5 medium), coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces

  • 3 cups


  • 1 tablespoon

    chopped fresh oregano leaves

  • 1 tablespoon

    chopped fresh thyme leaves

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    red snapper fillets (or another flaky white fish like tilapia or flounder), cut into 4 pieces


  1. Heat the oil in a deep skillet or sauté pan large enough to fit all 4 pieces of fish in a single layer over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until the garlic just begins to turn golden, about 10 seconds.

  2. Add the tomatoes, water, oregano, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce to the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes so that the liquid reduces slightly, pressing down on the tomatoes with a wooden spoon a few times to help break them down to form a chunky broth. Taste and season with salt as needed.

  3. Place the fish in the pan skin-side down, if there is skin. Season the fish with salt, cover again, and cook until the fish flakes and is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

  4. Transfer the fish to 4 wide, shallow bowls and spoon the broth around it. Serve immediately. Leftovers do not keep well.