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Baby snapper in acqua pazza

Acqua Pazza, "crazy water," is a lightly herbed Italian broth, usually used to poach fish. With this recipe, fresh and fine ingredients are key.

  • 20 mins preparation
  • 25 mins cooking
  • Serves 4
  • Print
Photo: Alicia Taylor
Traditionally, acqua pazza is fish poached in a water-based broth flavoured with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil, chillies and fennel. Here, we have briefly seared the whole baby snapper before adding it to a tomato-fennel-basil broth to steam through and fully absorb the flavour.
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  • 2 kg ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, 1 chopped, 4 thinly sliced
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • ¼ cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 baby snapper (600gm each), cleaned
  • 2 long red chillies, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (125ml) dry white wine
  • 2 baby fennel bulbs, thinly sliced. fronds reserved
  • 400 gm mixed cherry and grape tomatoes
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • ½ cup marjoram leaves
  • Chargrilled sourdough, to serve


  • 1
    Blend chopped tomatoes, chopped garlic, basil, sugar and 1 tsp sea salt flakes in a blender until smooth. Pour into a large fine sieve over a large bowl; push liquid through sieve using a ladle.
  • 2
    Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat; cook fish for 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Transfer to a plate.
  • 3
    Cook sliced garlic and chilli in same pan until softened and starting to colour (4 minutes). Add wine; cook for 1 minute or until evaporated. Add fennel, mixed tomatoes, herbs and 1 litre (4 cups) of the tomato liquid; season to taste. Bring to the boil and return fish to pan. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove lid and cook for a further 5 minutes or until fish is just cooked through. Season to taste and serve with chargrilled sourdough.