Roasted Branzino with Lemon

Makes 4 servings


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces guanciale, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 whole branzino, striped bass, or red snapper (about 1-1/2 pounds each), scaled and gutted
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons, zest grated, lemons thinly sliced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, fronds coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup), bulb thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine


Step 1: Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Step 2: Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the guanciale and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.
Step 3: Lay a piece of heavy-duty foil on a baking sheet. Spray the foil with vegetable oil cooking spray. Lay the fish in the center of the foil and cut two 2-inch diagonal slits on each side of each fish, taking care not to cut through the bone. Season the cavities with salt and pepper.
Step 4: In a small bowl, mix together half of the lemon zest, the fennel fronds, and the thyme. Divide the mixture among the two cavities. Fill the cavities with the lemon and fennel slices, reserving 4 lemon slices to place on top of the fish. Scatter the cooked guanciale and any fennel that didn’t fit in the cavities around the fish. Pour the wine over the fish and arrange 2 lemon slices on top of each fish. Lay a piece of foil over the fish and crimp the edges of both top and bottom pieces of foil together to form a packet.
Step 5: Roast the fish for 30 to 35 minutes, until the flesh flakes easily and is cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Step 6: Carefully remove the top piece of foil and transfer the fish to a cutting board. Remove the fennel and lemon slices from the cavity and arrange on a platter along with the guanciale from the baking sheet. 
Step 7: Pull back the skin from the fish. Using a sharp knife, separate the top fillet from the backbone of each fish. Using a metal spatula, transfer the fillets to the platter. Lift the fish backbone from on top of each of the bottom fillets (it should come off easily) and discard. Using the spatula, transfer the two remaining fillets to the platter, leaving the skin behind. Sprinkle the fish with the remaining lemon zest before serving.

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