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Acqua Pazza

By Chef John Ash

The name of this dish literally translates to “fish in crazy water” and, like most Italian recipes, there are as many variations on this dish as there are cooks who make it. It reportedly originates with the fishermen of Naples and is a bright, clean, delicious dish. This is a simple dish to prepare and is well complemented by the Les Pierres Chardonnay, with its crisp and elegant acidity.

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    Serves 4

    Total Time 30 minutes

    Prep Time 15 minutes

    Difficulty Level Medium


    6 oz firm skinless white fish fillets such as red snapper or black cod (4)

    2 tsp freshly ground fennel seeds

    Fine sea salt

    3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

    4 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

    1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

    1 large white onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise (about 2 c)

    15 oz canned petite diced tomatoes, drained

    1 c Italian dry white vermouth

    1/3 c chopped fresh basil

    Lemon wedges for serving


    1. Coat the fish on both sides with the ground fennel and season liberally with salt. Set fish aside.

    2. In a deep saucepan or skillet large enough to hold the fish in a single layer add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and onions and cook until onions have softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vermouth and 1-1/2 cups water and bring to a simmer.

    3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes for flavors to combine.

    4. Nestle the fish in a single layer in the broth, cover the pan and cook at a gentle simmer until the fish is just cooked through and starting to flake, about 5-minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

    5. Taste for seasoning and carefully divide the fish among 4 shallow pasta plates, spooning the broth and vegetables over. Sprinkle basil over and serve immediately with the lemon wedges to squeeze over.

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