This dish is all about the fish! I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s about getting a really fresh fish, cooking it simply and quickly, and enjoying its flavour.

The water is turned ‘crazy’ with the addition of tomatoes, chilli and salt. A friend of ours told us that when eating out, she’ll ask if wine is used in the sauce, and if so, she will simply eat elsewhere! In her opinion even the addition of chilli is a step too far; she feels that acqua pazza should contain only garlic, salt and black pepper, olive oil, parsley and of course the ripest, most flavourful tomatoes you can lay your hands on.

Now, bearing in mind that the lucky Amalfitani live next door to their very own 24/7 fresh fish counter and the flavours of the tomatoes grown around Vesuvio are really strong, I think it’s fair to make some allowances. I live inland and as far from any sea as you can get in the UK, so if I want to eat a dish like this I would recommend adding a good splash of homemade Shellfish Stock.

Serves 4

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 whole small sea bream or 1 large sea bass, cleaned and deboned
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ‘00’ or plain flour, to coat the fish
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ red chilli, depending on strength, finely chopped
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 600 ml (20 fl oz/2½ cups) hot water or fish stock
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Put 1 whole clove of garlic inside the cavity of each fish and finely slice the other cloves for the sauce. Season and flour the fish and tap off the excess flour. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the fish for about 5 minutes on each side, remove the fish, then discard the oil from the pan. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the sliced garlic, chilli and cherry tomatoes for 2 minutes, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the hot water or fish stock and bring to the boil. Allow it to boil viciously until the liquor reduces. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.

Palm Beach ChicThe Amalfi Coast: A Collection of Italian Recipes by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi (Hardie Grant, £25) Photography © Helen Cathcart Buy now