Sea Bass in Parchment

Simple yet elegant, this Sea Bass in Parchment with Sea Asparagus Pesto features gorgeous sea bass portions rubbed with pesto atop a Mediterranean-inspired Israeli couscous and fresh baby spinach. It all gets wrapped up in parchment paper, and baked in the oven for a mere 10 to 15 minutes… a gorgeous one pouch meal!

An open parchment packet of pesto-rubbed sea bass in parchment atop Mediterranean-inspired Israeli couscous and baby spinach… It’s garnished with fresh basil chiffonade, toasted pinions, and half a grilled lemon…

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About Eating Mindfully and Sustainably

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I often encourage eating mindfully and seeking sustainable food sources. I regularly check the EDF Seafood Selector when making fish choices.

#1 important point – Chilean sea bass (aka Patagonian or Antarctic toothfish) gets an “okay” eco-rating. They are slow-growing and often overfished. Avoid sea bass from Chile. However, it is possible to find Chilean sea bass that is sustainably sourced (ie. Whole Foods).

#2 important point – Chilean sea bass is prized for its rich, buttery texture and flavor. It’s my favorite special occasion fish, and we have it about once per year. I find that barramundi makes a great “best choice” substitute.

So, “mindful” eating is exactly what it seems. At its most basic, think about what you’re eating… Foraged food is another good example of mindful eating. Foraging is the act of gathering wild food for free. A very simple example of foraging is gathering black berries by the side of the road in the Pacific Northwest (we lived there for 5 years). Think wild mushrooms, wild garlic, nopales (cactus pads) and tuna (cactus fruit), and so much more…

I was recently introduced to Sea Asparagus Pesto, a flavorful product from Foraged & Found. This delicious and nutritious wild-harvest pesto provides the flavor foundation for the fish and couscous in parchment recipe below.

A bird's eye view of the open sea bass in parchment covered with sea asparagus pesto and garnished with fresh herbs, toast pine nuts, and a caramelized lemon half.
A wood cutting board with sea bass, sea asparagus pesto, lemon halves, Israeli couscous, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach.
  • fish – I highly recommend sea bass if you can get responsibly or sustainably sourced sea bass. Otherwise, choose firm, thick fillets or steaks to allow a slightly longer cooking time. I would suggest barramundi, halibut, flounder, grouper, etc. I think salmon would be fine as well (though I have not tried it).
  • sea asparagus pesto – Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored post, but it is a contest. There is a chance I might win a monetary prize. I am excited about the product line by Foraged N Found. Based in Alaska, this innovative company creates salsas, pickles, and sauces, with wild-foraged Alaskan superfood ingredients like bull kelp and sea asparagus. Their passion is to showcase these foods, while also protecting and maintaining the splendor of the environment. I love their approach. I do not know how widely available their product line is yet, but you can make this fish in parchment paper with another brand/type of prepared pesto, or even use your own homemade!
  • Israeli couscous – I use Israeli couscous because it requires more time to cook, making it suitable to cook with the fish in parchment. I have not tried them, but I think orzo and acini di pepe would be suitable as well.
  • kalamata olives
  • sun-dried tomatoes – Choose good quality packed in extra virgin olive oil as the dish needs the moisture.
  • broth – Seafood, chicken, or vegetable broth are fine.
  • baby spinach – Given the relatively short cooking time, you need to use very tender greens. A baby greens mix or arugula would work as well.

🔪 Step-By-Step Instructions

step 1

  • Prep the ingredients – Rub the fish portions with the sea asparagus pesto. Halve the olives, and chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Preheat oven to 400°.

step 2

Step 2 - Add couscou, broth, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes to a small saucepan.
  • Par-cook the couscous – Combine the Israeli couscous with olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Simmer covered for 5 minutes. Liquid should be absorbed. Remove from heat. Be careful to not overcook!

step 3

Step 3 - Cook the Israeli couscous for 5 minutes.
  • This is what the par-cooked couscous looks like. The liquid has been absorbed. The moisture from the spinach and the fish complete the cooking process to al dente.

step 4

2 sea bass portions rubbed with the sea asparagus pesto alongside the par-cooked Mediterranean couscous.
  • Get ready to make the fish packets – The fish portions should be rubbed with sea asparagus pesto, and the par-cooked Israeli couscous should be ready to go. You will also want to have the baby spinach close by.

step 5

Step 4 - Place a scoop of the par-cooked couscous on parchment.
  • Assemble the fish packets – Start with a large piece of parchment paper (or a parchment bag). I pull out a generous length of about 18″. Place 1/2 of the couscous mixture towards the middle third of the paper. Note: It’s better to have extra paper than to be short. If using parchment bags, layer the couscous, spinach, and fish in the bag, and then tuck the open end underneath.

step 6

Step 5 - Layer baby spinach leaves and fish coated with sea asparagus pesto.
  • Add the baby spinach and prepared fish – On top of the couscous place a generous amount of baby spinach (as shown). If not caramelizing a lemon (see Pro Tips), you might want to top the fish with lemon slices.

step 7

  • Fold the parchment – Bring opposite ends together, and start with angled folds from one side, and continue around forming a half moon. Confused? See how to fold fish in parchment. If using parchment bags, simply tuck open edge underneath. Bake in 400° oven 10 to 15 minutes depending on thickness. Mine required 15.

step 8

A red ceramic casserole with 2 servings of sea bass and Mediterranean couscous.
  • To serve – Use kitchen shears to cut open the packets. Place sea bass in parchment on plates. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, chopped herbs, and lemon as desired. Enjoy!

💭 Pro Tips

A small saucepan with Israeli couscous being lightly toasted.
  • Lightly toast the Israeli couscous before par-cooking to bump up the flavor.
  • On photo day, I used my roll of parchment, but I usually use parchment bags. I wanted to show a bird’s eye view of the prep, and the bags would have hidden that from view. They’re super convenient… one bag per serving! This salmon and zoodles has a video that shows how to use them.
  • In the final images, you’ll see a caramelized lemon half. Squeezing this over the fish is a lovely addition. Simply spray a sauté pan with cooking spray, and place the lemon halves cut side down. Cook until nicely caramelized. Alternatively, you can thin-slice a lemon and place sliced lemon on top of fish while it bakes.

How do I use parchment bags instead of paper from a roll?

It’s easy! Layer couscous, spinach, and fish in the bag, and simply tuck the end underneath before placing in a casserole dish. See this salmon and zoodles video for more…

How do I fold the parchment if I’m using parchment sheets or a roll?

The folding process goes really quickly, but it’s hard to explain. See how to fold fish in parchment.

Can I make fish in parchment in advance?

I would suggest assembling but not baking in advance. You want to serve fish or seafood fresh.

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊

Parchment Paper Bags
OXO Kitchen Shears
2 plates of sea bass en papillote, a grey cloth napkin, and black flatware.

This Sea Bass in Parchment recipe is so elegant, but it comes together so quickly. That makes it suitable for entertaining, date nights, and quick weeknight dinners. It’s healthy, gluten free, and delicious. I do hope you’ll give it a try.

I hope I sparked your interest in this sea asparagus pesto offered by Foraged & Found. You can find them on the web, on Facebook, and Instagram. I’m looking forward to discovering more foraged foods!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

A black plate with sea bass in parchment on Israeli couscous with spinach.

Sea Bass in Parchment

This fish in parchment (aka fish en papillote) features sea asparagus pesto and Mediterranean style couscous…
5 from 1 vote

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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine American, Global, Mediterranean
Servings 2 servings
Calories 381 kcal


  • 2 fish portions - about 12 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons sea asparagus pesto - or other pesto (see Post ingredients)
  • ½ cup Israeli couscous
  • ½ cup broth - seafood, chicken, or vegetable
  • 10 kalamata olives - halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes - rough chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • season to taste - see NOTES below
  • 1 lemon - halved or sliced
  • fresh herbs - to garnish


  • Rub the fish portions with the sea asparagus pesto. Halve the olives, and chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Combine the couscous with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and broth. Simmer covered for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 
  • Place half the couscous mixture on a large square of parchment paper or in a parchment bag. Cover the couscous with a generous cup or two of spinach, and a fish portion.
  • Fold the parchment paper around the edges tightly in folds to create a half moon shape. Make sure you press as you crimp and fold to seal the packets well, otherwise the steam will escape. If using parchment bags, tuck open ends underneath. Arrange the packets in a casserole dish.
  • Bake at 400° 10 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness).
  • Using kitchen shears, cut through packets to open. Serve in or out of parchment paper garnished with lemon (either caramelized or slices) and toasted pine nuts.


Important note – The olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto are fairly salty. I would strongly recommend you taste the couscous before adding additional salt. Of course fresh ground pepper is always a good addition! I like to salt the spinach leaves before placing the fish on top.


Calories: 381kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 9g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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