Shrimp in Crazy Water

Gamberoni All’Aqua Pazza. Shrimp in Crazy Water is an example of how Italians love to make little jokes about their food. But this recipe is no joke! The liquorish flavor of the fennel melds with the sweetness of the tomatoes and the heat of the peppers giving it great deal of depth - even for a fairly quick dish. The liquid from the tomatoes, seawater, and wine quickly become a poaching liquid for the shrimp.

The dish is typical of the Campania region of Italy which is where I first had it. The chef made it with some sort of white fish (I have no idea what kind because it didn’t translate and we probably don’t have it here) and it was delicious. He told me the crazy water was sea water - although I’m pretty sure he used water and salt!

Buon Appetito!

Yield: 6

Gamberoni all'Aqua Pazza (Shrimp in Crazy Water)

prep time: 15 Mcook time: 25 Mtotal time: 40 M


  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (1/2-inch)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons hot chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced (1/2-inch) reserve the fronds
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 14 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup seawater, or 1/2 cup water with 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 pound large shrimp, prawns or any firm white fish can be used


  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat until smoking.  Add the garlic, chilies, and diced fennel.  Cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  
  2. Add in both tomatoes, wine, and seawater and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat; simmer until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Season with pepper and more salt if necessary.  


This has a thin sauce that goes really well with a spaghetti or homemade pasta.
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