Weeknight dinner
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Tilapia In Crazy Water (Pesce All’Acqua Pazza)

I ordered it because of the name. Crazy Water? How could I pass it up?

I saw this recipe on the menu at Macaroni Grill, of all places. I wasn’t impressed when it came to the table. It looks bland – white fish, poached in water – but it packs some big flavors.

The flavor is in the crazy water. Onions, tomatoes, and capers; garlic, herbs, and white wine. That’s a lot of flavor to go with the mild white fish.
Say it with me: Craaaaazy water.

The recipe is quick, warming, light, and healthy…what more could you want?

Recipe: Tilapia In Crazy Water (Pesce All’Acqua Pazza)

Inspired by: Canal House Cooking Volume number 8: Pronto


  • Large, shallow pan with a lid (I use a Le Creuset Braiser, but a large fry pan or saute pan will also work)


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend (or dried oregano)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (pino grigio is my favorite for this)
  • 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 (4 ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley


1. Saute the aromatics

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frypan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion, capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle with salt, and saute until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine and bring to a simmer, scraping any browned onions from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer the wine for one minute.

2. Simmer the broth

Pour in the diced tomatoes and simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits, until the tomato juices thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the water, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper. Increase the heat to high, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the water for ten minutes.

3. Cook the fish

Sprinkle the fish evenly with 1 teaspoon kosher salt (about 1/4 teaspoon per fillet). Add the fish to the simmering water – the water won’t completely cover them. Cover the pan and cook the fish for five minutes.

4. Taste and serve

Taste the broth in the pot, and add salt and pepper if needed. Scoop each fish fillet into a shallow bowl, sprinkle with a big pinch of parsley, then divide the broth between the bowls, making sure each fillet is topped with a bunch of tomatoes and onions. Serve.


  • I use tilapia, because it’s inexpensive and environmentally friendly, but any mild, flaky white fish will work.
  • You can substitute a pint of cherry tomatoes for the canned diced tomatoes if you want, but since they’re cooking in the water, I don’t bother – I start with the pre-cooked canned tomatoes. (Don’t try other types of store-bought tomatoes; they’re tasteless. If you can get fresh, summer tomatoes, though, this recipe is an excellent way to use them.)

What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:

Sear Roasted Salmon with Knob Creek Smoked Maple Glaze
Mussels with Spanish Chorizo
Tilapia with Brown Butter and Lemon

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  1. Mike, read Tamar Adlers An Everlasting Meal….it aligns with Zuni and cooking simply…it will change your life!!

  2. Bridget says

    Mike, this salting technique has brought my chicken to another level of deliciousness. The rest of your recipe is how I quite often cook mine; sometimes use a sheet pan and vary on the spices. So I really noticed the difference when it was salted. I have my second chicken going since your post. Did you salt/season both sides? Thanks for sharing.

  3. J.J. Sefton says

    I usually roast the whole bird (a la Jacques Pepin) in the Lodge cast iron pan, which is probably the best pan I ever purchased. I keep some unglazed terra cotta tiles in the oven for pizza making and it boosts the temperature considerably. Preheat the oven to 400F. While it’s heating, set the pan on a medium-medium high burner. Loosen the skin then add a mixture of salt, pepper and paprika under the skin directly on the breast meat, massaging as thoroughly as possible through the skin. If you don’t, you’re going to bite into a salt lick. Browb each side in the pan for about 4-5 minutes per side on the stove top, then 20 minutes per side in the oven. Finally, roast it on it’s back for 10 minutes in the oven and then let rest for 10 minutes on the counter before carving.

    The skin is not really all that crisp, but the bird is perfectly roasted every time. I will definitely try spatchcocking next time.

  4. Grant says

    Made this 2 nights ago…very, very good. But, I had at least a pint and a half of the “crazy water” left over. So, tonight I re-heated the water to a boil, added some file’ powder and Creole seasoning and a pound of Gulf shrimp. Absolutely the best left-over meal I have ever prepared. This recipe is a double home-run. Thanks, Mike!

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