Acqua Pazza is an Italian dish of lightly herbed broth made with white wine and water used to poach white fish.
I love Jamie Oliver’s new show “Jamie Cooks Italy” where he travels around Italy with Gennaro Contaldo and discover local Italian dishes that are unheard of outside of Italy, recipes that are cooked by local village grandmothers, fishermen, and home cooks, dishes that were handed down from generations through generations that were untouched and now exposed to us to enjoy at our own homes.
On one of his episodes Jamie and Gennaro visited the island of Procida where it is famed for its colourful surroundings, if you have seen Cinque Terre then this would look more familiar but less touristy. An island known for its seafood that is why when Jamie and Gennaro visited the place the met up with Nonno Francesco who demonstrated an incredible dish called Acqua Pazza. Then Jamie later on recreated it with Sea Bream cooked with fennel, cherry tomatoes, white, Calabrian chilli, Leccino olives and fresh herbs.
The dish was known to have originated from fishermen of the Neapolitan area where they cook the catch of the day in seawater together with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. The name on the other hand originated in Tuscany where the Mezzadria peasants wine makers give most of the wines to their landlords leaving a little for themselves to drink. Like most peasants they were quire resourceful and mixed the stems, seeds, and pomace left over from the wine production with large quantities of water, boiled then sealed in a terracotta vessel where it was left to ferment for several days, they call it l’acquarello or l’acqua pazza. This water was barely coloured with wine where the fishermen was reminded of it when seeing the broth of the dish, where it is slightly coloured by the olive oil and tomatoes.
This dish was really popular in the 1960’s with tourists on Capri Island but since then this was never heard of outside of Italy until Jamie re-introduced them. Today here we are making this crazy dish and trying for ourselves how really crazy that water is.
In a large pan add olive oil then sauté spring onions, fennel and carrots for 5 minutes
Add the tomatoes, garlic, chilli, olive and dried parsley, continue to cook for 2 minutes.
Put fish on top then pour wine, bring to a rapid boil then reduce the wine by half. Pour water, grate some lemon zest on top of fish then top it with fennel tops then cover the pan then cook in high heat for 8 minutes.
Baste fish with the juices for a minute, season with sea salt.
Serve drizzled with olive on top and squeeze of lemon juice.