This Whole Roasted Branzino Recipe is made with whole branzino, olive oil, cherry tomatoes, lemon slices, butter, parsley and baked to perfection.
This will never cook another fish not whole again. Roasting a fish with all the skin and bones truly gives it so much flavor and it is so delicious. I made my Mexican Snapper Veracruz style and it was so good. Now I had to try the Italian style whole fish so I obviously bought branzino. I don’t understand how I have spent most of my life cooking fish in fillets.
If you were to ask any chef, the best way to make a fish is whole. The meat is juicier, more tender and full of flavor because of the bones. Many may think cooking a whole fish is intimidating, but it is no easier than baking in fillets. You can tell if the fish is fresh by the smell - a fish should NOT smell fishy! It should smell clean and of the ocean. Check the eyes as well. The eyes should be clear, not cloudy. The gills should be bright red or orange, not brown. The fish should feel firm, and should not dent when you poke it. Ask them to gut, clean, scale and butterfly the fish before buying.
If you like this recipe, feel free to try my White Wine Salmon with Blistered Tomatoes.
What is Branzino?
Branzino, also known as European sea bass or spigola, is a type of fish that is commonly found in the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. It has a firm, white flesh that is delicate and mild in flavor, making it a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. Branzino is often served whole, with the skin on, and is typically grilled or roasted with herbs, lemon, and olive oil. It is a healthy source of protein and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, making it a nutritious addition to any diet.
How does Branzino taste like?
Branzino has a delicate, mild flavor that is often described as sweet and nutty. The flesh is white and firm, with a slightly flaky texture that is moist and tender. The skin of branzino is thin and crispy when cooked, adding a pleasant contrast to the tender flesh. The flavor of branzino is often enhanced with simple seasonings such as lemon, herbs, and olive oil, which complement the natural flavor of the fish without overpowering it. Branzino has a delicious flavor and texture that is loved by seafood enthusiasts around the world.
Ingredients for this Branzino Fillet Recipe
- Cherry Tomatoes
See recipe card for quantities.
How to cook Branzino al Forno
*See video below for recipe tutorial.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pat fish dry. Score fish three times on each side. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Stuff cavity with parley and 2 tablespoon squares butter.
Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter cherry tomatoes and lemon wedges around the fish. Place the last butter square on top of the fish.
Roast until fish is just cooked through, 17 to 22 minutes, depending on size. Fillet fish and serve with roasted lemon wedges.
Hint: Don’t be shy to ask them to inspect the fish yourself before buying. Remember: it shouldn’t smell fishy, the eyes should be clear and the gills should be red or orange.
Fish: Go to your local fish market and ask the fish monger what is their freshest fish they have. I used branzino for this recipe, but you could use a whole seabass. Then, ask them to clean, scale, and butterfly the fish for you. They less steps you need to do, the better.
Butter: I used salted butter but you could use ghee or unsalted butter and salt yourself.
Lemons: For best taste, use real lemons and not store bought lemon juice. I sliced the lemons and caramelized them on each side.
Parsley: I used fresh parsley although you can also use thyme instead. If you would rather use dried parsley or thyme, that would work but just use less.
Whole Roasted Branzino Recipe Variations
Here are some variations on whole roasted branzino recipes:
- Lemon and Herb Branzino: Rub the branzino with olive oil, lemon zest, chopped garlic, and a mix of fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the skin is crispy.
- Mediterranean Branzino: Stuff the branzino with a mixture of cooked couscous, chopped kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Spicy Branzino: Rub the branzino with a mixture of harissa paste, smoked paprika, cumin, and garlic powder. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the skin is crispy.
- Asian-style Branzino: Stuff the branzino with sliced ginger, scallions, and cilantro. Drizzle with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the skin is crispy.
- Italian-style Branzino: Stuff the branzino with sliced lemon, fennel, and capers. Drizzle with olive oil and white wine. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the skin is crispy.
Check out my Fish Dip!
To make whole roasted branzino, you will need the following equipment:
- Baking Sheet or Roasting Pan: A baking sheet or roasting pan is necessary to hold the fish while it cooks in the oven. I love using my Caraway baking sheets for best quality. Get yourself a discount by clicking here.
- Parchment Paper: Parchment paper can be used to line the baking sheet or roasting pan to prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom.
- Sharp Knife: A sharp knife is needed to make a few slits in the skin of the fish before roasting, which helps the fish cook evenly and allows seasonings to penetrate the flesh.
- Cutting Board: A cutting board is needed to hold the fish while it is being prepped and to transfer it to the baking sheet or roasting pan.
- Aluminum Foil: Aluminum foil can be used to cover the fish while it roasts, which helps keep it moist and prevents the skin from burning.
- Oven: A conventional oven is needed to roast the branzino. Make sure the oven is preheated to the proper temperature before roasting the fish.
How to store cooked Branzino
If you have leftovers of whole roasted branzino, it's important to store them properly to maintain their flavor and texture. Here's how to do it:
- Let it cool: Allow the cooked branzino to cool down to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator. This will prevent condensation from forming inside the storage container.
- Wrap it tightly: Wrap the cooled branzino tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to protect it from air and moisture. Alternatively, you can place it in an airtight container.
- Refrigerate: Place the wrapped or containerized branzino in the refrigerator and store it for up to 3 days.
- Reheat before serving: When you're ready to serve the leftover branzino, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and place the fish on a baking sheet. Reheat it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until warmed through.
Baked Branzino Top tips
Here are some top tips to help you make a delicious whole roasted branzino:
- Choose a fresh fish: Look for branzino that has clear eyes, bright red gills, and shiny skin. The flesh should be firm to the touch and not have a fishy odor.
- Scale and gut the fish: Before roasting the fish, make sure to remove the scales and gut the fish. You can ask your fishmonger to do this for you.
- Season the fish well: Season the fish inside and out with salt, pepper, and any additional herbs or spices that you prefer. This will enhance the flavor of the fish.
- Make slits in the skin: Use a sharp knife to make a few shallow slits in the skin of the fish. This will allow the heat to penetrate the fish evenly and will help the fish cook more quickly.
- Stuff the fish (optional): If desired, stuff the fish with aromatics such as lemon slices, herbs, or garlic. This will infuse the fish with additional flavor.
- Use parchment paper: Line your baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper. This will prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom and make cleanup easier.
- Baste the fish: Baste the fish with olive oil or melted butter during cooking. This will keep the fish moist and add flavor.
- Check the temperature: Check the internal temperature of the fish with a meat thermometer. The fish is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove