Lemon & Rosemary Grilled Branzino with Fennel Salad

Lemon & Rosemary Grilled Branzino with Fennel Salad
Jump to Recipe 👇

About This Recipe

The Napa Valley, an epitome of exquisite wine culture, lush vineyards, and enchanting California sunshine, is home to many culinary treasures. Among those is the delicate and sophisticated grilled branzino, a delightful dish that captures the essence of the region's vibrant flavors.

When thinking about the vibrant Californian wine country, one cannot help but envision succulent dishes that sing harmoniously with the area's world-famous wines. A standout is the lemon & rosemary grilled branzino. Branzino, often known by locals and chefs as the Mediterranean sea bass, is a fish of unparalleled delicacy. It's light, flaky, and boasts a mild, sweet flavor. And when we talk about a quintessential branzino recipe, the addition of lemon and rosemary, two ingredients that thrive under the Californian sun, seems only natural.

However, the magic doesn't stop with the branzino fish. In Napa, it's not just about the main event but the symphony of flavors that accompany it. Enter roasted fennel. Now, fennel might seem an unlikely candidate to the uninitiated, but its slightly sweet, anise-like flavor dances perfectly alongside the fish, and when roasted, it takes on a caramelized nuance that is simply irresistible.

To give this dish a Napa twist, it's paired with a fennel salad. Now, imagine this: as you slice into your perfectly grilled branzino, you get a hint of that roasted fennel, mixed with a fresh bite from the salad. It's a textural and flavorful adventure. And what's a summer meal without a refreshing drink? A splash of cucumber lemonade or a hint of lemon squash brings in the cool, tangy balance to this rich dish.

For wine enthusiasts, the pièce de résistance is, of course, the wine pairing. And in this heart of wine country, there's no shortage of options. A crisp Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley complements the dish, enhancing the citrus notes. For those who prefer a fuller-bodied wine, a Chardonnay like the Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay from the neighboring Sonoma Coast makes a classic choice. And for the more adventurous palates, a Vermentino, while less common, offers a delightful high-acid contrast. Though the recommended Tablas Creek Vineyard Vermentino hails from Paso Robles, it's worth seeking out during your California wine travels.

If you're exploring Northern California and wish to dive into its culinary depth, don't just stop with a branzino fillet recipe. While in Napa, make it an experience. Visit Oxbow Public Market for fresh ingredients. Wander through Sonoma's local fish markets for the freshest branzino fish. And maybe, if you're feeling extra indulgent, finish your meal with a glass of port from Rombauer Vineyards.

Incorporating this grilled branzino dish into a broader menu encapsulates the spirit of the Napa Valley. Start with a light goat cheese salad, move on to the branzino as the main course, and wrap up with a classic Californian olive oil cake. Each dish can mirror the progression of your wine journey, from light whites to robust reds.

To sum it up, the lemon & rosemary grilled branzino with fennel salad is not just a dish; it's a journey. A journey through Napa Valley's culinary landscape, its rich history, and its ever-evolving wine culture. Whether you're a local, a visitor, or someone daydreaming of the next wine country adventure, this dish is a passport to the heart of Northern California's gastronomy.

And if you ever find yourself wandering through Napa's picturesque vineyards and bustling markets, remember: it's not just about the wine. It's about the harmony of flavors, the coming together of history, culture, and culinary craftsmanship. Dive in, relish, and let Napa's grilled branzino be a memory you cherish forever. Cheers!

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Branzino

Branzino, often referred to as Mediterranean sea bass, is truly the star of our Lemon & Rosemary Grilled Branzino dish. This fish is revered for its light, flaky texture and subtly sweet flavor. Originating from the waters of the Mediterranean, it has found a place in the hearts (and plates!) of many Californians. When grilled, the Branzino's skin crisps up beautifully, creating a delightful contrast to its tender interior. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein, it's as nutritious as it is delicious. Its mild flavor makes it the perfect canvas for the aromatic marriage of lemon and rosemary.

How to Achieve the Perfect Grill Marks on Your Branzino Fillet

Grilled branzino is as much a visual treat as it is a culinary delight. Those coveted grill marks add an aesthetic appeal and enhance the fish's flavor. Here's a step-by-step guide to get it right:

  1. Preheat the Grill: Ensure your grill (whether charcoal or gas) is preheated to a medium-high temperature.
  2. Clean and Oil: Before placing the branzino fillet on it, make sure the grill grates are clean. Lightly brush them with oil to prevent the fish from sticking.
  3. Dry the Fish: Pat the branzino fillet dry using paper towels. A drier surface ensures better grill marks.
  4. Place Diagonally: Lay the fish diagonally across the grill grates.
  5. Don't Move Too Soon: Allow the branzino to grill undisturbed for about 3-4 minutes. This allows the grill marks to form.
  6. Rotate: Using a spatula, gently rotate the fish 45 degrees to create crosshatch grill marks.
  7. Flip and Repeat: After another 3 minutes, flip the branzino fillet and repeat the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I substitute another fish for branzino? Absolutely! If you can't find branzino, opt for other white fish like sea bass or snapper. They share a similar flavor profile and texture.
  2. How do I store leftover grilled branzino? Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Consume within 2 days for best flavor and freshness.
  3. I have a citrus allergy. What can I use in place of lemon? You can substitute lemon with a drizzle of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar for a touch of acidity without the citrus.
  4. Is this recipe gluten-free? Yes, grilled branzino with fennel salad is naturally gluten-free. Always check your individual ingredients to ensure no gluten-containing additives have been included.
  5. What tools do I need for this recipe? A good grill, either charcoal or gas, is essential. Additionally, a fish spatula will make flipping your branzino fillet easier. A sharp knife and chopping board are required for prepping the fennel salad.

Tips for Success

  1. Freshness is Key: Always opt for the freshest branzino fish available. A fresh fish should have clear eyes, firm flesh, and a mild sea-like aroma.
  2. Control the Heat: While grill marks are beautiful, it's essential to avoid overcooking. Monitor your grill's temperature and adjust as needed.
  3. Serve Immediately: Fish, especially a delicate one like branzino, is best served right off the grill. This ensures you enjoy its tender, flaky texture and full flavors.

With these insights, you're well-equipped to master the art of grilling branzino and enjoy a culinary experience reminiscent of California's iconic wine country.

Recipe Overview

Lemon & Rosemary Grilled Branzino with Fennel Salad
Lily Anderson
2 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List



  • 2 whole Branzino, gutted and scaled (about 1-1.5 pounds each)
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fennel Salad:

  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Zest from 1 lemon

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Prepare the Branzino: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Clean and oil the grill grates.
  2. Pat the Branzino dry and make 2-3 diagonal slashes on each side. This will help the fish cook evenly and absorb flavors.
  3. Rub the Branzino with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper inside and out. Stuff each fish cavity with slices of lemon and sprigs of rosemary.
  4. Grilling the Fish: Place the Branzino on the grill and cook for about 7 minutes on each side or until the skin is charred and the flesh is opaque.
  5. Fennel Salad: In a bowl, combine sliced fennel, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, and zest. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve: Once the Branzino is grilled to perfection, transfer it to a plate, and serve with the refreshing fennel salad on the side.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

About Me

Don't miss a recipe!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Coming soon - Cookbook!

Loving Napa Home Chef Recipes and wishing for more? Discover print exclusives!

Napa Recipe Cookbook: Napa Home Chef
Pan-Seared Sea Bass with Lemon Butter and Sauvignon Blanc
Queso Mornay with Artisanal Gruyère
Wine Country Zinfandel & Fig Glazed Chicken with Sonoma Rosemary
Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip with Espresso Rub and Cabernet Reduction
Roasted Pork and Apple Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Arugula
Veggie Frittata with Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes, Baby Spinach, and Goat Cheese
Smoked Paprika Rubbed Pork Loin with Piquillo Pepper Sauce
Chocolate Ganache Tart with Passionfruit Gel & Maldon Salt
Smoked Oyster Risotto with Lemon Zest & Parsley
Apple and Quince Crostata with Cinnamon Streusel and Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
Charcuterie Board with Local Cheese, Cured Meats, Fresh Fruits, and Nuts
Mushroom and Gruyere Tart

Mandatory (inedible) cookies. By using this website, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.