Whole Roasted Branzino with Fennel and Tomatoes Recipe

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Photo by Erin Kunkel
Fish entrees such as branzino are part of traditional Italian Christmas dinners.
30 min COOK TIME
15 min PREP TIME
4 to 6 servings SERVINGS


  • 2 branzino (European sea bass), 
  • scaled and gutted, head and 
  • tail intact, 1 to 1-1/2 pounds
  • Fine sea salt
  • 4 sprigs rosemary 
  • 1 lemon, sliced into 4 rounds 
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin 
  • olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh 
  • flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small fennel bulbs
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes soaked in olive oil or hydrated with water
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced


  • 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
      Rinse fish and pat dry. Using a sharp knife, create a cavity in each fish by making a slash along the belly and top of each, cutting down to the bone. Season cavities with salt and stuff each with 2 rosemary sprigs and 2 lemon rounds. In a bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons oil, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Rub mixture all over outside of fish. 
  • Remove stems and fronds from fennel. Cut bulbs in half lengthwise, then into thin slices. Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, tomatoes and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Spread vegetables in a roasting pan. Place fish on top.
  • Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until flesh is opaque when cut near the bone and fennel and tomatoes are tender.
  • Transfer fish, fennel and tomatoes to warmed platter, spoon pan juices over top and serve. Serves 4 to 6. Find more dishes for your holiday dinner: Healthy Recipes for the Holidays.
    Cook’s Tip: European branzino is rated as a “Best Choice” fish by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which monitors the sustainability of fish choices worldwide. It has delicately flavored white flesh. If you can’t find branzino, you could substitute striped bass, which has similar flavor, texture and good sustainability ratings.
    Adapted from Against All Grain Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion by Danielle Walker and published by Ten Speed Press, 2016. 

Traditional Italian Christmas celebrations always include a fish entrée. Although it’s often paired with beef or poultry, you can opt for a lighter but stunning feast by serving whole fish as your main course. Branzino’s mild flavor makes it likely to appeal even to those who do not love fish. If you’re serving this as the main dish, you may want to double the recipe. 

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