Recipe: Here’s how to make the Italian dish ‘Fish in Crazy Water’

Susan Gravely, founder and CEO of Vietri, the lifestyle brand that specializes in handcrafted Italian tabletop and garden accessories, showcases classic Italian recipes in her cookbook “Italy on a Plate,” (Vietri). In the book’s glossy and colorful pages, along with her stories, Gravely offers formulas for everything from Baked Tagliolini to Zucchini with Gorgonzola.

In the chapter dubbed “The Young Man of Positano,” she reveals her formula for Pesce all’ Acqua Pazza (Fish in Crazy Water). The fish, mild-flavored white fillets, such as sea bass or flounder, are cooked over a tasty broth. The finished dish is plated in shallow bowls or rimmed plates. Provide crusty bread to soak up any leftover broth.

Fish in Crazy Water (Pesce all’ Acqua Pazza)

Yield: 4 servings


2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled, smashed

1 medium brown onion, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, each cut in half

1/2 cup pitted, halved kalamata olives

1/4 cup capers, drained

1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley

4 white fish fillets, such as flounder or sea bass

1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Heat oil in large, lidded skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens (do not brown), about 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and parsley; stir to combine.

2. Place fillets on top and sprinkle each with salt. Add enough water to skillet to cover the onion-celery mixture, but make sure it only reaches the bottom of the fish. Cover tightly and cook for 10 to 15 minutes on medium to medium-high (a vigorous simmer on the bottom and steaming on top) just until fish is fully cooked and flakes easily. Serve hot.

Source: “Italy on a Plate” by Susan Gravely (Vietri)

Cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at

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