If you’ve never heard of branzino, you’re not alone—but if you like fish, you’ll love it. Whether new or not, you’ll love this quick, easy, and delicious whole Roasted Branzino!
One of the things I love about fish is that a good, fresh piece of it doesn’t need a lot of fuss to taste great. The trick is to jazz it up enough to be interesting, but not so much that you obscure its clean, sweet simplicity.
That definitely gets accomplished with this seven-ingredient branzino recipe. Perhaps even better, you can be sitting down and enjoying in about 30 minutes.
What Is Branzino?
Branzino is a member of the sea bass family with flaky, mild, white flesh. It comes from the Mediterranean—it’s especially popular in Italy—and so you’ll typically see it prepared in a Mediterranean way. My recipe features a simple lemon-garlic-olive oil drizzle with lots of fresh herbs. But branzino is also good with pesto, chimichurri, a tangle of marinated peppers, or just a squeeze of lemon or lime and a drizzle of good olive oil.
Branzino is typically sold as a whole fish that’s been cleaned and gutted. For general fish buying tips, check out this post. But when you’re shopping for whole fish, there are a couple additional things to look for—the eyes should be clear and not cloudy or sunken, and the flesh should look taut and shiny.
Never carved a whole fish before? It’s easy. Here’s a great video to walk you through it.
Roasted Branzino Recipe Variations
This roasted fish recipe is so simple, it’s very much open to interpretation. I particularly adore rosemary with a meaty fish, but if you don’t, substitute another herb like thyme or oregano. You could also substitute dried herbs for fresh. Dried won’t have quite the brightness and dimension of fresh, but they’ll work in a pinch.
You could also try swapping limes for the lemons, using 3 limes instead of 2 lemons. And you could enhance the drizzling sauce by adding chopped fresh parsley, chives, or capers.
Finally, although branzino seems to be more and more available these days, if you can’t find it, substitute almost any other similarly sized whole fish. The recipe would also be great with trout, but trout is typically a little smaller than branzino so take 2 or 3 minutes off the cooking time.
This dish is so beautifully simple that I like it with similarly simple-but-delicious sides. My favorites? Roasted potatoes, carrots, or asparagus, or a nice spinach salad.
- 2 (1 to 1 and ¼ lb.) branzino, cleaned
- 6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- ¾ tsp. salt, plus more to taste
- ¾ tsp. pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 lemons, divided
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus 2 tsp. chopped (see note)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange one rack in the middle of the oven and one about 6 inches from the heating element.
- Put the fish on a rimmed baking sheet and rub it inside and out with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Sprinkle inside and out with the salt and pepper.
- Thinly slice one of the lemons. Stuff the fish with the sliced lemon and rosemary sprigs.
- Bake on the middle rack until almost cooked through, 12 to 14 minutes.
- Meanwhile, juice and zest the remaining lemon. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and zest, chopped rosemary, garlic, and remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
- When the fish is almost cooked through, turn on the broiler and cook until cooked through and crisped, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Pour a little of the lemon juice mixture over the fish. Serve with the remaining lemon juice mixture on the side.
Note: Instead of rosemary, try thyme or oregano. If you’d prefer dried herbs or a dried herb blend, use 1 teaspoon dried instead of the fresh sprigs and 1 teaspoon dried instead of the fresh chopped.