Salmon in Crazy Water

updated Jun 29, 2021
Salmon in Crazy Water

This Italian-inspired recipe features salmon fillets gently poached in a garlicky fresh tomato broth.


Prep5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook17 minutes to 25 minutes

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Credit: Kristin Teig; Food Styling: Catrine Kelty

I first learned about acqua pazza, or “crazy water,” from the late, great chef and cookbook author Marcella Hazan. The tomato-based broth that’s used as a poaching liquid, typically for flaky white fish, is traditional in the southern Italian region of Campania.

I was initially drawn in by the silly name but quickly fell for the easily adaptable broth. It’s simply simmered tomatoes and water, which means it can be flavored with as few or as many aromatics and herbs as you’d like. Here, I beef up the broth with onion and fennel seeds, so it can hold up to meaty salmon fillets. It’s a meal that’s light yet satisfying and begs to be served with bread to mop up the savory broth.

Salmon in Crazy Water

This Italian-inspired recipe features salmon fillets gently poached in a garlicky fresh tomato broth.

Prep time 5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook time 17 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2 tablespoons

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    fennel seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    plum tomatoes, or Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces

  • 1

    small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 cup


  • 1/2 cup

    dry white wine

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 4 (6-ounce) pieces

  • Coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for serving

  • Good bread, for serving (optional)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, high-side sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sauté until the tomatoes break down to release their juices and the onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the water and wine and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces by about one fourth, 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt, as needed.

  3. Season the salmon with salt and place it in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer until the fish just begins to flake, 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest fillet should read 120°F to 130°F for medium-rare or 135°F to 145°F if you prefer your salmon more well done.

  4. Transfer the salmon fillets to 4 shallow bowls and spoon the broth around them. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with bread, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Mediterranean Every Day © 2020 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. Text © 2020 Sheela Prakash Photography: Kristin Teig Photography. First Published in 2020 by The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group