There aren’t many recipes as impressive as Whole Roasted Branzino with Tomato and Olive salad! This tender flakey fish is stuffed with lemons and herbs, roasted until it is perfectly and beautifully crispy and then served with a tangy tomato and olive salad. A spectacular feast for your eyes and mouth!
If Branzino is on a restaurant menu I am sure to order it! Up until recently I was too intimidated to try making it myself. But guess what? It is very easy to make this restaurant worthy dish at home!
What is Branzino?
Branzino (branzini for plural), a mild white fish, is simply a European sea bass that is primarily found in the western and southern waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is known as Lavraki in Greece, but in the USA, we know it by its Italian name “Branzino”.
This lovely white fish is tender and delicate with a slight sweet flavor that pairs well with many different herbs, spices, and varieties of citrus. Branzino has become a popular fish on restaurant menus, and you will usually see it served whole, but it can also be prepared as a fillet.
How do you know the fish you are buying is fresh?
To make a fabulous dinner you need to start with the freshest fish. Here are the things to look for to make sure your fish is fresh:
- It should not have a strong fishy odor. The fish will have a scent, but it should not be foul.
- The eyes should be clear, not milky, or gray.
- The scales should be firmly connected to the body of the fish. They should not come off when you run your hand across them.
- The gills should be bright red and moist, not brown or faded.
- The meat should spring back when you touch it.
- There should be no milky liquid in the gills or any other part of the fish.
How to make this recipe
Ingredients you will need
Whole Branzino: It is easiest if you have your fish monger gut and clean it for you. I have done this myself in the past and although it is not difficult, it is very messy.
Fresh Herbs: I love the combination of fresh thyme, rosemary, and basil in this dish.
Lemons: Cut into round slices for stuffing in the fish and more for serving with the fish if you like.
Extra virgin olive oil: Rubbing this on the fish helps the skin crisp up and provides a luxurious flavor.
Cherry Tomatoes: I love the way the sweetness of the tomatoes pairs with the fresh basil and other herbs in the fish.
Cured Black Olives: These olives are salty and briny which is a nice contrast to the sweetness of the tomatoes. Use of the olives is optional.
White wine vinegar: Combined with the olive oil this makes a light vinaigrette.
How to cook the fish
Set your oven to 400° and grease a rimmed baking sheet by brushing it with olive oil.
Prepare the fish: Dry the fish inside and out, season and stuff the fish with lemon slices and herbs.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145°. Then broil for 3 – 5 minutes, until the skin is crispy.
Prepare the salad: Combine the tomatoes, olives (if using them) herbs, white wine vinegar, and olive oil in a bowl and toss till combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Line your baking sheet with foil for an easy clean up!
Make sure to dry the fish off with paper towels, inside and out, before rubbing with olive oil. This will help the seasoning adhere to the fish and removes any extra moisture so that the skin will crisp up.
Keep an eye on the fish while it is under the broiler. We want a nice crispy skin, but it can burn easily.
Squeeze some lemon juice on the fish when you remove it from the oven to give it an additional citrusy vibe.
The tomato and olive salad can be served either over the fish or as a side.
This is a boney fish so even after removing the bones, small ones may still be present. I do not recommend serving it to young children.
Cook it in foil
Wrap each fish in foil before placing them on the baking sheet. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Unwrap the foil and place the fish under the broiler to crisp up for 3-5 minutes.
Whole branzino is delicious grilled. Oil you grill grates to keep the fish from sticking. Set the grill to high heat and cook the branzino about 5-8 minutes per side with the lid closed. Check the internal temperature of the fish for doneness.
How to serve the fish
When the fish is cooked the skin should pull off easily. Then to fillet it, use a sharp long knife and starting at the back bone, carefully lift the fish off of the bones using the knife as your guide. Then lift the spine and ribs off of the remaining fish.
What to serve with this fish
This light and tender fish lends itself to many different sides. Grilled or roasted vegetables like asparagus or brussels sprouts are always a good option. I also love to serve this with Grilled Eggplant, Butternut Squash Risotto, Italian Scalloped Potatoes or a light fresh and citrusy Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad.
Branzino is a non-fatty white fish that is low in calories and is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, protein, minerals and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin-A, E and D. It can be a very good addition to a healthy diet.
Raw fish should be cooked within 2 days of purchasing it. If it is stored properly covered in the refrigerator, it will be safe even if the sell by date has passed within that time.
Cooked fish will stay fresh for several days if it is stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Other fish and seafood recipes
Whole Roasted Branzino with Tomato and Olive Salad
- 2 Branzini gutted and cleaned
- 2 Lemons sliced
- 8 Thyme sprigs
- 4 Rosemary sprigs
- 8 Basil large leaves
- Salt and Pepper
Tomato and Olive Salad
- 1½ cups Cherry Tomatoes halved
- ¼ cup Cured black olives halved
- ¼ tsp Thyme fresh
- ½ tbsp Basil ribboned
- ⅛ tsp Kosher Salt
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil extra virgin
- 1 tbsp White wine vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.
- Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Cut three evenly placed slits on the top of each fish. Rub the fish with olive oil, inside and outside. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Stuff each fish with 2-3 sliced of lemon, half of the thyme, rosemary and basil. Stuff half of a lemon slice into each of the slits on the top of each fish.
- Place the fish on the prepared baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. When the fish reaches an internal temperature of 145°, turn on the broiler. Broil the fish until the skin is crispy, watching to make sure it does not burn.
Tomato and Olive Salad
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined. Serve either over the fish or on the side.