Halibut in “crazy water”

I have been meaning to try this recipe for a while now.

Yesterday was a perfect warm almost summer evening and decided to just let myself go.

The term acqua pazza literally translates to “crazy water”, apparently because the fishermen who invented this dish centuries ago, used fresh sea water, along with tomatoes and olive oil, to poach their fresh catch of the day. The broth was hence “crazy salty”. I don’t know if this is true or if it is a legend.

Nowadays, with the addition of white wine and lemon juice, you can still get a punchy broth without needing all that much salt.

This broth is excellent with any white fish, and even with seafood like shrimp or lobster.

There are probably hundreds of versions of this dish, the simplest being a combination of water, olive oil,  and tomatoes. I decided to marry a few of my favourite ingredients in here, and I especially liked the combination of marjoram and capers. If you are not sure you like fish, give this recipe a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Note: I used a combination of yellow and red cherry tomatoes for the broth, giving it its distinctive hue.

Halibut in acqua pazza

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


1/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pinch hot red pepper flakes
5 springs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon capers, drained
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt to taste
4 halibut fillets
extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish


1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, hot pepper flakes, thyme, marjoram and capers and cook until fragrant, a few minutes. Don’t let the garlic brown.

2. Add the tomatoes, wine, water, cover, and cook for 45 minutes.

3. Uncover, and reduce the liquid by half. Add the parsley. Taste and season with salt.

4. Poach the fish in the liquid for a few minutes, then turn the fillets over and cook for another few minutes, until it is flaky. Alternatively, cook the fish in another skillet until browned on one side, flip it over and continue cooking in a 400 F oven for 8 minutes. In the summer, grill the fish on the barbecue.

5. Take the marjoram, thyme and bay out of the broth.

6.Serve the fish fillets in a warm bowl, add one ladle of broth and garnish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Halibut in acqua pazza

Categories: Mains

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