Orata all’acqua pazza – sea bream in “crazy water”

Orata all’acqua pazza – sea bream in “crazy water”


The “sea bream in crazy water” is a classic fish recipe. It is also light and very easy to prepare.

“Acqua pazza” means crazy water in Italian. Acqua pazza is used in Italian cuisine to refer to a recipe for poached white fish, or to refer to the broth used to poach it. There are many different versions, from lightly herbed broths to thicker tomato-based sauces.

Acqua pazza was a very popular dish with tourists on the island of Capri in the 1960s. If you want to know more about this famous recipe, you can check this Wikipedia page.


Sea bream 800 gr. (2 medium-sized fish)

Cherry tomatoes 300 gr


Garlic 4 cloves

Extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper as needed

Water, 1 cup

White wine, 1 cup

Black olives, 1 cup

Chili pepper optional




Rectangular baking dish (or 1 non-stick pan as an alternative), 1 chopping board, 1 knife, aluminium foil or parchment paper.


First clean the sea bream.  Scrape off scales, remove the fins (you can leave the caudal fin to check later if the fish is cooked), and remove the gut.  Better yet, you can ask the fishmonger to clean the fish.  But leave them whole – you must filet it only after cooking.

Heat the oven to 220 degrees.

Open the stomach cavity and put a pinch of salt, a clove of garlic, and a few parsley leaves (coarsely chopped) inside.


Coat the bottom of the baking dish (or a pan) with the extra virgin olive oil, then set the sea bream in the dish.

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into wedges. Put them in the pan with the two cloves of garlic, whole parsley leaves, black olives, salt, pepper (or fresh chili if you like), water and white wine.  Note, the liquid should not cover the fish – rather, it should be at a level a bit less than half the height of the fish.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes.



To check if the fish is cooked, try to tear off the caudal fin. If it comes off easily, then the sea bream is cooked. If it resists, then the fish needs to continue cooking for a few more minutes.

When the sea bream is cooked, remove the pan from the oven, lay the fish on a plate, carefully remove the skin, and divide the sea bream into fillets. Remove all the bones and the head.

Once the 4 fillets are obtained, place them in a serving dish, sprinkle with the cooking base and serve immediately.



If you prefer, you can cook the sea bream in a pan. Proceed in the same way, cooking over a flame by placing a lid on the pan.

The cooking sauce is delicious and in case you have some extra, you can serve it with spaghetti, linguine, or other pasta as you like.

You can use sea bream, seabass, snapper, or other fish as you like. It is important that you buy a fresh whole fish. Then, you adapt the cooking time to the size. Increase the cooking time depending on the weight of the fish.

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