This is a super simple, light and fresh stew from Venice. The Venetian word "acquapazza" means crazy water as the stew is loaded with a myriad of contrasting and strong flavors, capers, olives, chiles, herbs, and garlic. Traditional Italian cuisine is dependent on a single (or two) flavoring agent, a spice or herb. Here the mix of these strong flavors led the folks to call the chef crazy!
I had this dish the first time in Venice about 3 years ago in a small restaurant. The narrow streets, the canals and the slowly passing gondolas made the dinner special, but I clearly remember the bright and fresh flavors of the dish.
The first bite tantalizes your palate, and your mind jump to how fresh and delicate this stew is. A light, barely cooked tomato broth filled with the strong flavoring herbs and spices delicately flavoring the just cooked fish. The dish is dependent on fresh and wonderful ingredients, so please use really flavorful tomatoes and fresh fish.
This is one of those cookbooks that hides on my shelf, one of the problems of having a library of cookbooks. It is a beautiful cookbook filled with wonderful Venetian recipes. I did experienced first-hand the wonderful cuisine of this beautiful city, the locals are proud of it and always claim that their cuisine is the best in Italy. But we also heard that phrase repeated in Florence and Rome! You will definitely see me cook more from here soon.
For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.
2-3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1-2 red chilies, finely sliced into circles
2-3 tomatoes from a can, without skin, finely minced to almost a purée, San Marzano DOP preferred
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Sea salt, to taste
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons capers
20 green olives, halved
A small handful parsley, sliced into ribbons + some for garnish
A small handful basil, sliced into ribbons + some for garnish
About 25 cherry tomatoes, halved or left whole if very small
1 1/2 lb whole fish or fillets of red snapper, sea bass, tilapia or any white fish
Heat the oil on a low flame in a deep, very wide frying pan. Add the garlic, red chilies, pepper and salt and sauté for 1 minute till the garlic is cooked but not browned.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes till the liquids have evaporated and the sauce thickens. Add the wine, capers, olives, parsley and basil and bring to a simmer. Mix the sauce well to combine all the ingredients. Taste the sauce and adjust salt, herbs and spice.
Add the fish in a single layer in the pan, gently pressing it into the liquids. Simmer with a lid for 5-7 minutes so the fish is just cooked. Add a couple of tablespoons of water if you feel the stew is getting dry. You want the fish to look fresh and not "boiled".
Turn off the flame and add the cherry tomatoes. Shut the lid and let sit for 2-3 minutes for the tomatoes to just cook in the residual heat. They should be firm and just blanched when the dish is served.
This dish is best served immediately with a light bread, I made a semolina-olive oil loaf.