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Roast Fish Recipe - Pesce al Forno - Italian Roast Fish


Roasting a fish is a procedure more than a recipe, and will work well with any sort of fish that takes well to being roasted. Fish availability changes remarkably from place to place; in the Italian seas the fish most prized for roasting are branzini, orate, saraghi, spigole, dentice, and cefali -- According to Alan Davidson's Mediterranean Seafood (Penguin Books), these are sea bass, gilt head bream, dentex, two-banded bream, and gray mullet.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • A pound (500 g) whole fish per person
  • The herbs of choice


Because of bones, skin, and such you should figure about one pound of fish per diner. Have your fishmonger clean and scale the fish for you.

When you get home wash the fish well, inside and out and pat it dry. One generally seasons roasted fish with herbs. Exactly which you use are up to you, but the list can include any of:

Lemon wedges
Garlic, sliced
Fresh thyme in sprigs
Fresh rosemary in sprigs
Fresh parsley in sprigs
Olive oil
Whatever else you prefer (a round of ginger, for example -- not Italian but tasty nonetheless). The important thing is that the herbs not overpower the delicate flavor of the fish.

Preheat your oven to 420 F (210 C).

Salt the cavity and slip a little of the herb mixture you've settled on into it (say, a sprig of rosemary and a small wedge of lemon).

Rub the fish with olive oil and salt them, then lay them in a roasting pan large enough for them to lie flat, and not touching. If you are using rosemary slip a sprig under each fish, then lay another on top, together with several thin slices of lemon and some garlic, if you're using it. Sprinkle well with oil, note how thick the fish are at their thickest point, and put them into the oven. Roast for about 10 minutes per inch (2.5 cm) of thickness; the fish will be done when the eyes are completely white and the flesh near the back bone is no longer translucent but flakes easily when prodded with a toothpick. You will probably want to turn the fish (gently) once about half way through the roasting time.

A wine? There are those who like a red with this sort of fish, but I continue to prefer white. If the fish is flavorful, a Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai, or Chardonnay from Friuli will be nice, and will a Trebbiano from the Abruzzo. If it's more delicate, I might go with a Vermentino from Tuscany or Liguria.

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