Video: Pesce Al Sale (Salt-Crusted Sea Bass)

There are many versions of Pesce al Sale but this one is my favourite. 

I make it once a week at home, my family just loves it! And at my supper clubs I’ve had many people tell me they enjoyed it even though they don’t usually like fish. 

Ingredients 

  • 2 whole European sea bass (branzino), gutted but not scaled (sea bream can also be used)  
  • 1 lb coarse Italian sea salt
  • 1 fresh rosemary spring
  • 1 lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil 

Instructions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. Rinse and pat dry the fish.
  3. Place half of rosemary spring in each fish.
  4. Add half of the salt evenly to the bottom of the baking pan large enough to hold both fish.
  5. Place the fish next to each other and cover evenly with the rest of the salt, leaving the head and tail uncovered. 
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until the eye of the fish pops out slightly.
  7. While the fish is baking, squeeze the lemon into a bowl and add and an equal amount of olive oli. Whisk until creamy.   
  8. Once the fish is done, let it rest and cool down for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the surrounding salt - the fish should come out from the salt easily.
  10. Remove the fish head and tail and slit the fish along the side, opening them lengthwise. The flesh should come off the bone very easily. 
  11. Whisk the olive and lemon sauce again until creamy and pour on top. Serve immediately. 

Tips and Notes

  • Cooking time depends on the size of the fish, but in North America sea bass tend to be around 1lb. Note also that when you take the fish out of the oven the salt is still hot and keeps cooking the fish a little longer. 
  • Some versions of this recipe call for egg white to be added to the sea salt and for the fish to be covered entirely. This is for larger fish that are more common in the Mediterranean - it’s not necessary for the 1lb. fish you typically find in North America. 
  • Not all fish are suited to this cooking method. Some will dry out. But sea bass has a higher fat content that keeps it moist even when baked in salt.