While the dish originated from fishermen of the Neapolitan area, who sautéed the catch of the day in seawater together with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, The term itself most likely originated from Tuscany; where the local peasants would make wine, but had to give most to the landlord, leaving little left for them to drink. The peasants were resourceful, however, and mixed the stems, seeds, and pomace leftover from the wine production with large quantities of water brought it to a boil, then sealed the mixture in a terracotta vase and let it ferment for several days. Called l’acquarello or l’acqua pazza, the result was a water barely colored with wine, which the fisherman may have been reminded of when seeing the broth of the dish, colored slightly red by the tomatoes and oil.
Acqua pazza became a very popular dish with tourists on Capri Island in the 1960s.
The pezzogna fish (also known as “occhione” or “big eye” because of the size of its eyes) is caught in the Bay of Naples and is highly prized for its delicious taste.
Marcella Hazan was introduced to the dish by her friend from Amalfi, Pierino Jovine, and her first reaction was, “Who wants to eat fish in water?” Here is the link to her recipe:
And here is my version
Pesce All’Acqua Pazza
Ingredients for 2 people
1 lb fish fillets (red snapper, flounder) cut into serving portions
Salt and pepper
4 mini plum tomatoes (Marzano) or cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (peperoncino)
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced red onion
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Dry the fish fillets on paper towels and season them with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil and lightly fry the garlic, onion, and peperoncino in a skillet with a cover that is large enough to fit the fish, until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes, white wine, and water. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add the fish. Cook, covered, 10 minutes for thin fillets or 15 minutes for thicker ones. Serve immediately, dressed with the cooking liquid and topped with the parsley.
Here is another example of my cooking philosophy – never waste food. I had extra zucchini squash and leftover cooked cauliflower, so I decided to use them for side dishes with this fish recipe.
2 cups mashed cauliflower
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Combine the mashed cauliflower, cheeses, and seasoning.
Heat a stovetop griddle to medium/high heat. Coat with butter.
Form the cauliflower mixture into 6 patties about 3 inches across. Coat the patties in the panko crumbs.
Cook until golden brown & set, about 3-4 minutes per side.
These are so good that I usually double the recipe.
Makes 8-4 inch patties
2 cups grated zucchini
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, grated
2 green onions, finely minced
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch or flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Place the grated zucchini on a kitchen towel and sprinkle the zucchini lightly with kosher salt. Let rest 30 minutes.
Squeeze the excess moisture out of the zucchini with the towel.
In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini with the egg, garlic, green onions, and arrowroot powder. Stir in the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Season with black pepper to taste.
Brush a large stovetop griddle pan or large skillet with butter. Scoop 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture onto the griddle and pat it flat with a metal spatula. Add as many patties as you can to the pan without letting them touch each other.
Cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and keep the cooked pancakes warm in a low oven until all the pancakes are made.
Extras can be wrapped in foil and stored in the refrigerator for a week. Believe me when I say the leftovers are delicious reheated for breakfast and served with a fried egg on top.