Branzino is a white flesh fish known as Mediterranean Sea Bass or Loup de Mer. It’s native to the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Seas, which also gives the name European Sea Bass.
In Northern Italy, where the fish is most popular, it also goes by the name Branzino or Branzini (plural). Alternatively, Branzino is also often spelled Bronzino and Bronzini.
Called ‘Lavraki’ in Greece and ‘Robalo’ in Spain, and ‘spigola’ in some parts of Italy,
European bass is a beloved fish in Europe.
When properly cooked, European sea bass is delicate, light, buttery yet has a mild flavor with a silky, flaky texture.
It’s also firm, meaty, and fatty without an overly fishy smell or taste, which contributes to the popularity of Bronzino.
While many fish are referred to as ‘sea bass’ like Chilean sea bass isn’t actually a bass at all, Branzino is one of the true temperate basses. This European bass has an elongated body that weighs about 1-2 pounds on average.
While Branzino is truly a uniquely delightful fish, if you must find a comparable, it would be red snapper. While slightly smaller in size and weight, European seabass has a remarkably similar bone structure, texture, and flavor to white, lean, and flaky red snapper.
Other comparable fish include rainbow trout, flounder, and sea trout.
This also explains similarities in cooking methods and ingredient pairings amongst these fish.
Preparation and Seasoning
Branzino, the Mediterranean seabass is the ideal fish for grilling, roasting, and baking. It’s one versatile and great fish that responds well to all kinds of cooking methods as well as seasonings and pairing ingredients.
The fish’s mild taste makes flavor infusion a breeze whether it’s with zesty ingredients like Meyer lemon, olives, and caper. It also goes beautifully with some Asian flavors like lemongrass and soy sauce.
Fresh herbs are also staples of many European bass recipes and pair well with lemon juice and other flavor enhancers.
Besides herbs aiding to reduce fishiness in taste and smell, they lend an earthy aroma and give a subtle punch to a fish with a delicate and sweet flavor.
The best part is, any herb you have on hand would likely be a great taste elevator for a European seabass dish.
Fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley, or even dill would complement and support the delicateness of Bronzini fish. Better yet, create a herb mix with your favorite herbs to add to your next dish.
Branzino Fillets vs Whole Fish
In the United States, fish is often enjoyed as fillets than a whole. And this may also apply to Branzino. While you may find Branzino fillets you can easily prepare on a skillet, in Mediterranean and European cuisines, Branzino is an ideal fish to be enjoyed as a whole fish.
And cooking Branzino as a whole fish in medium heat is my absolute favorite way to enjoy this delicious sea bass.
Wrapping Branzino in aluminum foil and baking in the oven brings together all of its flavors and the aromas of the supplemental ingredients.
Because Branzino has a high-fat content, when cooked in medium-high heat, the fat melts and squeezes oily juice that embodies a richer and bolder flavor.
Trapping all that and more in a bag of foil is one effortless way to capture the sweet, rich taste while also keeping the fish moist and soft.
And the beauty of it is that all it takes is simple ingredients and seasoning to make it flavorful and juicy.
Branzino Side Dishes
The dish pairs really well with roasted fingering potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and fennel. All these can also be baked on the side of the fish in the aluminum wrap.
If you are looking to have some juicy sauce to pour over the fish, make a cherry tomato white wine reduction sauce on a skillet. Brown some slices of garlic with unsalted butter on the skillet.
Add some cherry tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Pour 1/3 cup of white wine and let it reduce for a few minutes over medium heat.
Season it with kosher salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with fresh thyme at the end.
It’s a healthy seafood dish that never fails to steal the show at any dinner party and at your family dinner.
- 1 whole branzino fish scaled and cleaned
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1 tbsp Lemon pepper spice blend* The Gourmet Collection, Spice blends
- Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Prepare a fresh wild Branzino by rinsing the fish with clean water and de-scale. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and place it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits on the bronzini skin on both sides and set them aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil or avocado oil and the salted lemon spice blend until combined well.
- Prepare a 13-inch or longer roasting pan or iron large skillet and line with 2 layers of aluminum foil. Pour half of the oil and spice marinade onto the aluminum foil. Use a spoon or spatula to spread if needed. While this recipe calls for lemon seasoning which also has lemon zest and black pepper with some dried herbs, can replace it with fresh lemon slices and herbs.
- Place fish on top of the oil marinade and rub the cavity and skin with the oil marinade.
- Drizzle the rest of the oil mixture onto the fish and bring the ends of the foil and close them completely so the moisture wouldn't escape.
- Place it in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes* until fully cooked. If you prefer crispy skin on top, open the foil wrap and place it in the broiler for a few minutes.
- Remove from the oven and fillet bronzini. Serve the skin side up with a side of roasted cherry tomatoes, onions, fingerling potatoes, crusty bread, and salad. Garnish with fresh herbs.
- Lemon slices
- Kosher salt
- Onion powder
- Fresh crushed garlic
- Unsalted butter
- Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley, etc)
- Typically, the fishmonger cleans, guts the whole fish, and de-scales.
- Be sure to use fresh fish as opposed to frozen ones.
- Cooking time may depend on the size of the fish and its thickness.
- If you don't have fresh lavraki or European bass, you can use snapper, which is more accessible and easier to find in North America.
- While this recipe is designed to roast the fish, you may also place the bass wrapped in foil on a grill.