Baked Whole Fish With Tomatoes, Fennel & Fresh Herbs

August 5, 2013

I am obsessed with summer produce, and I find myself stopping by the open-air market in our town every other day to see what’s new (bonus: I’m learning all kinds of new words to butcher in Italian).

Pozzuoli is also a port town, so the seafood is fresh, abundant and inexpensive. Swordfish, octopus, clams, mussels, tuna – the options are endless. I used to be intimidated by the idea of cooking a whole fish until I realized how easy it is. Well, it’s incredibly easy when your fish guy will clean and scale the fish for you in about two minutes. I still haven’t mastered that art, and I’m happy to leave it to the professionals.

Brian and I have been experimenting with different ways to combine fresh produce with fresh fish, and this recipe is a new favorite. I love the sweetness of the tomatoes, the saltiness of the capers and the earthiness of the fennel. It’s adapted from a Jamie Oliver sea bass recipe – we used dorado. We also roasted vegetables in the same pan as the fish – starting the potatoes (skin on, chopped in large chunks) 20 minutes before the fish and adding the green beans with the fish.

baked fish


Olive oil
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
Fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
A glug of white wine
A pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper

2 whole fish (we used dorado), cleaned and scaled
3 T. Butter
½ bulb fennel, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-2 T. capers, roughly chopped
Chopped fresh herbs (we used rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley)
1 lemon, sliced
Aluminum foil

1. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

2. In a separate frying pan, heat a small amount of olive oil and butter. Add the fennel and cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for another 5 minutes until golden brown.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Mix the rest of the butter and the fresh herbs together in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix half of the tomato sauce with the fennel mixture.

5. Rinse the fish inside and out and pat dry with a paper towel. Place each fish on a large piece of aluminum foil.

6. Make three diagonal cuts down to the bone into one side of each fish. Stuff the cuts with herb butter. Stuff the inside cavity of the fish with the fennel-tomato mixture and two lemon slices.

7. Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce on top of the two fish. Add a splash of white wine and a little salt and pepper. Seal the foil packets, and place in a roasting pan.

8. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes, then carefully open the foil and serve. Pairs well with a crisp white wine. (One large fish should be enough to serve two people; we made two and saved one for leftovers.)