A light low-calorie dinner with no compromise on flavour that is ready in less than 30 minutes? Yes, that’s possible! Our Mediterranean Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Basil Pesto may be just what you are looking for! A healthy and delicious meal that only requires a few ingredients, this is a perfect midweek recipe that is both simple and luxurious!
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Why This Sea Bass Recipe Works
Not often do we have Mediterranean sea bass on the menu here at Somebody Feed Seb, but when I saw a wonderful deal on the seabass fillets in a local grocery store I simply couldn’t resist the temptation. There’s nothing quite like a flaky fish with crispy golden skin on a bed of wonderful Mediterranean vegetables. Drizzle some basil sauce on the sea bass and you have yourself a luxurious dinner fit for special occasions and weeknight dinners alike. Did we mention it only takes 30 minutes to put together? And it’s cooked without butter or cream, making this a dairy-free seabass recipe!
Only 6 main ingredients (plus some oil and seasoning) are required to make this delicious, but easy recipe. So try and get high quality ingredients for the best results.
- sea bass: we use Mediterranean (nor Chilean) sea bass fillets in this recipe. It is sometimes referred to as Branzino. The fillets are thin and cook quickly, and the skin crisps up beautifully in a hot pan. This recipe works great with other fish with a relatively mild flavor, like Sea Bream or Tilapia too.
- olive oil: extra virgin.
- courgette: young green courgette is sliced in 1cm rounds.
- cherry tomatoes: can be replaced with baby plum tomatoes.
- baby potatoes: New Baby potatoes, Jersey Royals, Charlotte potatoes or any other small waxy potatoes will work great.
- fresh basil leaves: finely chopped
- garlic clove: finely chopped
- sea salt (kosher salt) and black pepper.
Sea Bass Vs. Chilean Sea Bass
The two are not to be confused as they are two different species of fish. For this recipe, we used what is widely known as Mediterranean (or European) Sea Bass, a type of fish that is found in coastal waters and shallow river estuaries. It is also commonly known as Branzino (its Italian name) in the US. It has a mild flavour (not too fishy) and a buttery texture and is perfect to suit many different pallets. The sea bass fish filets are thin and cook quickly too, making it a great choice when you’re in a rush to present dinner on a table!
Chilean Bass, on the other hand, is a deep-water fish found in the Antarctic and South American waters and is an entirely different fish, also known as Patagonian Toothfish. This flaky white fish boasts a firm meaty texture and a delicate flavor.
Whilst both of these fish are delicious and a popular choice to go with pesto (pistou) and vegetables used in this pan-fried sea bass recipe, the timings presented here are for the thinner European Sea Bass Fillets.
Frequently Asked Questions
In short, Pistou is a French cousin of the Italian Pesto. But the main difference is that Pistou is made without any nuts (often with no cheese either), and therefore has a much thinner consistency that is just perfect for drizzling over your favourite dishes. Think risotto, pasta, even breakfast eggs (our favourite Pistou Egg recipe here).
The word pistou comes from Latin language and means ‘pounding’, referring to the way pistou is made in a pestle and mortar, but these days it is often made in a food processor. Since we only make a small amount of PIstou for this recipe, we decided to go the traditional way and used our wooden pestle and mortar.
Head straight to our dedicated article about French Basil Pistou for more information.
What Other Vegetables Go Well With Sea Bass Fillets?
We love Sea Bass with cherry tomatoes, courgettes and baby potatoes, but if you’re looking for other alternatives, why not try this sea bass recipe with simple stir-fried vegetables, like pepper, mange tout and julienned carrots mixed with fresh herbs? Or for a very light lunch, try serving the fish with our Tenderstem Broccoli with Garlic & Lemon or Courgette Ribbon Salad. Both of these nutritious side dishes are great options.
What is the Best Substitute for Sea Bass?
We tested this recipe with Sea Bream and Tilapia, and both worked really well. Both fillets of fish are of similar thickness to sea bass and cook in a similar amount of time.
How Long To Cook Sea Bass For?
It’s a judgement call and you will get better at judging the time required the more you cook. Unsurprisingly, the cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillet of seabass. If you’re using standard Mediterranean sea bass from a supermarket, they tend to be very thin, and cook in no more than 5 minutes in a large nonstick skillet (we cooked ours for 3 minutes skin side down, 1 minute on the other side and then rested it for another minute to finish cooking in the residual heat).
How to Cook Sea Bass?
For us, pan-seared sea bass is by far the easiest and most delicious, simply the best way to cook this wonderful fish. We used Mediterranean sea bass fillets that are thin and cook in a jiffy, so it is important to remember that it only needs a few minutes to cook through and the skin to crisp up.
- To ensure crispy skin, pat the skin of the fillets with a paper towel to dry them before seasoning.
- Only use a small amount of oil in the frying pan (or cast iron skillet) and let the pan get hot before adding the sea bass fillets.
- Always start frying skin side down.
- Sea bass fillets tend to curl up when they hit the hot pan. To avoid that, score the skin a few times with a sharp knife and apply some gentle pressure to keep the fillets touching the pan across the surface area for the first 20 seconds as soon as they hit the pan. Use a fish slice or a flat spatula.
- Cook skin side down for 3–4 minutes on medium heat. The skin should be golden and crispy. Turn the sea bass over gently and cook for a further minute. The fish should be completely opaque when cooked. The internal temperature of the fish should be 63 C (145 F), but it may be hard to measure it with a kitchen thermometer as the fillets are so thin in this fish recipe.
How to Make this European Sea Bass Recipe?
Boil the baby potatoes until tender (it normally takes about 20 minutes).
Preheat the oven to 180° C Fan. Place the courgettes and cherry tomatoes in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and some salt. Arrange the courgettes on one side of the baking tray (baking sheet) and the tomatoes on the other. Place the vegetables in the oven for 20 minutes.
Place finely chopped garlic and basil in a pestle and mortar (or a food processor) and bash (blitz) into a paste. Add olive oil and season with a little bit of salt and pepper.
When the vegetables are about 5 minutes away from being cooked, heat a large non-stick pan with just a small amount of oil.
Once hot, add the seabass fillets skin-side down and press them down for the first 20 seconds to prevent the fillets from curling (more tips in the text above). Cook for 3 minutes, until the skin, is nice and crispy. Then gently turn the fillets over and carry on cooking for another minute. Remove from the heat and leave the fish to finish cooking in the residual heat.
Place the courgettes and cooked potatoes in a large bowl and toss with half the pistou. Divide the vegetables between two plates, arrange roasted tomatoes, top with pan-fried flaky sea bass and drizzle the rest of the pistou on top.
What Wine Goes Well With This Sea Bass Recipe?
When it comes to wine pairings, you’ll want to choose options that complement the flavours of the sea bass and enhance the overall dining experience. Here are some wine recommendations that would go well with this recipe:
- Sauvignon Blanc: A crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc with its bright acidity and herbal notes can complement the delicate flavours of sea bass and the aromatic basil pistou.
- Chardonnay: Look for a medium-bodied, unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay. It should have enough acidity to cut through the richness of the sea bass while offering subtle fruit flavours that won’t overpower the dish.
- Albariño: This white wine from Spain is known for its crispness, zesty acidity, and citrusy notes. Albariño can bring a vibrant and refreshing element to the sea bass dish, enhancing the flavours of the basil pistou.
- Sancerre: Sancerre is a classic choice from the Loire Valley region of France. Made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, Sancerre wines are known for their crisp acidity, mineral notes, and vibrant citrus flavours. It can beautifully complement the delicate flavours of the sea bass and provide a refreshing contrast to the basil pistou.
- Chablis: Chablis is a renowned white wine from the Burgundy region of France, made from Chardonnay grapes. It offers a distinctive flinty minerality, along with crisp acidity and citrus flavours. Chablis can bring complexity and elegance to your dish while harmonizing with the basil pistou.
Other Fish Dinner Recipes
We hope you like our Mediterranean Sea Bass with Basil Pistou as much as we do. For other fish dinner ideas, have a look at some of our favourite recipes below:
- Homemade Fish Burger With Tartar Sauce
- Inverted Fish Pie or Smoked Haddock Gratin
- Dukkah Salmon, Aubergine & Courgette with Harissa Drizzle and Mint Yoghurt
Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Basil Pesto (Pistou)
- 2 Mediterranean seabass fillets (Branzino)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 courgette sliced in 1cm rounds
- 200 g cherry tomatoes
- 250 g baby potatoes cut in half
- 15 g fresh basil leaves finely chopped
- ½ garlic clove finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- Boil the baby potatoes until tender (normally takes about 20 minutes).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Place the courgettes and cherry tomatoes in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and some salt. Arrange the courgettes on one side of the tray and tomatoes on the other. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Place finely chopped garlic and basil in a pestle and mortar (or a food processor) and bash (blitz) into a paste. Add olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- When the vegetables are about 5 minutes away from being cooked, heat a large frying pan with just a small amount of oil. Once hot, add the seabass fillets skin-side down and press them down for the first 20 seconds to prevent the fillets from curling (more tips in the text above). Cook for 3 minutes, until the skin, is nice and crispy. Then gently turn the fillets over and carry on cooking for another minute. Remove from the heat and leave the fish to finish cooking in the residual heat.
- Place the courgettes and cooked potatoes in a large bowl and toss with half of the pistou. Divide the vegetables between two plates, arrange roasted tomateos, top with pan-fried sea bass and drizzle the rest of the pistou on top.