“Pezzogna all’acqua pazza”
I had to look up the name for this fish in English, and apparently it corresponds to ‘red sea bream’. It is also called ‘pagello’ or ‘occhialone’ in Italian but we who live in or around Rome, and can have access to fish caught near the island of Ponza, call it ‘pezzogna’. Which is where, some say, the name for this recipe came from. “Acqua pazza” literally translates as ‘crazy water’ and I could think of no explanation other than perhaps by ‘crazy’ they meant ‘bubbly’ as in simmering water? Wikipedia, however, opines that:
While the dish originated from fishermen of the Neapolitan area, who would sautée the catch of the day in seawater together with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, the term itself most likely originated from Tuscany; Mezzadria peasants would make wine, but had to give most to the landlord, leaving little left for them to drink. The peasants were resourceful, however, and mixed the stems, seeds, and pomace leftover from the wine production with large quantities of water, brought it to a boil, then hermetically sealed in a terracotta vase and fermented it for several days. Called l’acquarello or l’acqua pazza, the result was a water barely colored with wine, which the fisherman may have been reminded of when seeing the broth of the dish, colored slightly red by the tomatoes and oil.
Whatever … just so you know …. any fish cooked the ‘acqua pazza’ way calls for very few ingredients to the make the fish stock; just add garlic and/or onion, olive oil, a splash of white wine, some tomatoes, maybe some parsley and, optional, celery and carrot to the water. It is more than customary to add some heat with a chilli … but in my family, the children aren’t up for it so when needs must, I add it separately at the end on my own plate.
Gently lay the pezzogna on this bed of confetti-coloured veggies. As you can see, I had scored two deep cuts into the fish previously, to help it cook faster. (This was upon the advice of a friend – to be honest, I don’t think this is necessary. It doesn’t take long for this fish to poach because it is not so large).
And here is the pezzogna all’acqua pazza, ready to be enjoyed. I switched the heat off and proceeded to debone the fish. I used a fork and a spoon to do this and the skin and the flesh came away quite easily.
I coated the pezzogna with the sauce and veggies and sprinkled salt and white pepper before serving.
Excellent for ladies who lunch and people who are on a diet. Even better for people who aren’t — make sure you have some bread to mop up the sauce afterwards.