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Whole bass roasted in a packet

One of my fondest food memories of London was at FishWorks in Chiswick. They prepared a whole bass with garlic, olive oil and herbs (rosemary and/or bay leaves), served hot from the parchment packet in which it was roasted. Oh, my, was it amazing.

whole branzino, baked in a packetPhoto by Simon.

This recipe is my attempt to replicate that dish. I use heavy aluminum foil instead of parchment paper, as it’s easier for me to fold up and seal. Any whole fish that weighs about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds will do: striped bass, branzini (a.k.a., branzino), trout, and so forth. It’s enough to generously serve two people.

I use bay leaves, thyme, winter savory, or oregano, which are readily available in my garden, but feel free to use other fresh herbs.

foil packet containing branzinoFoil packet containing branzino, before baking. Photo by Simon.


  • 1 whole bass weighing between 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds, cleaned, but with head and tail intact
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons garlic-infused oil; or olive oil plus 3 cloves of sliced garlic.
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 to 4 sprigs of savory, thyme or aromatic herb, split in half (6 to 8 pieces)
  • juice of 1 lemon


  1. Preheat oven to 450F degrees. Place a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, which is at least 4 inches longer than your fish, on a baking sheet.
  2. Rinse the bass and pat dry. Make 3 or 4 slashes crosswise on each side, down to, but not cutting through the bone. Place the fish on the foil.
  3. Rub the oil over the outside and inside of the fish. Sprinkle with salt.
  4. Place the bay leaves in the fish cavity, and tuck the savory or thyme in each slit. Pour the lemon juice over the fish.
  5. Fold up the foil around the fish, but not too snugly. Then fold the edges of foil together, like a nicely sealed envelope. See photo above for an example.
  6. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit unopened for a couple of minutes.
  7. Open the foil packet. Remove the top filet of fish (the slashes provide a nice way to grab chunks of the meat), then the bones. Serve with the resulting lemon fish broth. Goes well with rice, potatoes or crusty bread.

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