Usher in Lent with this healthy and delicious fish recipe

"Home with the Lost Italian" columnist Sarah Nasello says Baked Lemon and Pesto Steelhead Trout is a great way to kick off Lent, which starts today.

Easy to make and delicious, Sarah's Baked Lemon and Pesto Steelhead Trout is the perfect meatless recipe for Ash Wednesday, Lenten Fridays or any busy weeknight.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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FARGO — This Baked Lemon and Pesto Steelhead Trout is the perfect way to usher in the season of Lent, which begins today. Not only does it check the box of being meat-free for those of us abstaining from eating meat today and every Friday until Easter, but it is also a healthy and delicious protein alternative that can be enjoyed no matter the season.

I chose steelhead trout for this recipe as it is regularly available at big-box stores, like Costco and Sam’s, and is typically more affordable than salmon and other varieties of fish (around $8 to $9 a pound).

Season the large fillet of steelhead trout with a sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Steelhead trout is often mistaken for salmon and the two do share some similarities — both have a lovely coral-pink color and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But steelhead trout has a mellower flavor, is slightly smaller in size and thickness and often is less expensive than salmon.

This quick and easy recipe can be thrown together in about 30 minutes, which comes in handy for busy weeknights. I prepare the fillet by placing it on a foil-lined baking sheet greased with olive oil, and season it with a sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper. There is no need to remove the skin if it is still on the fillet, as it separates quite easily from the flaky flesh after baking by simply running a spatula between the skin and the flesh when serving.

A light coating of basil pesto vinaigrette is brushed atop the surface of the trout fillet to complement the mild fish.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Next, I make a vinaigrette with basil pesto, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil and crushed red peppers. You can make your own pesto, but in winter months I prefer to use a prepared version, and our family favorite is the Member’s Mark brand from Sam’s Club.


The pesto vinaigrette is brushed over the top of the trout fillet in a thin layer, to add flavor but with a light touch, so as not to overpower the mildness of the fish.

At this stage, I fold the sides of the foil up and in toward the fillet so that the juices and liquids will keep the fish moist as it bakes. Finally, I top the fillet with thin slices of lemon and a few pats of butter, and then I pour a bit of white wine along its sides. The white wine is an optional step that adds wonderful flavor to the fish, and the alcohol content will cook off as the trout bakes.

Before baking, place thin slices of lemon and pats of butter atop the fillet, and pour white wine inside the foil casing.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I bake the fillet of trout in the oven at 400 degrees until white globs of fat emerge on its surface and the flesh is flaky and opaque inside. You can also use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, which is achieved when the thickest part of the fillet registers an internal temperature between 135 to 145 degrees.

White globs of fat that emerge on the surface of the fish are a sign that the fillet is nearly done baking.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

This Lemon and Pesto Steelhead Trout recipe takes only about 20 minutes to bake until it is ready to serve, and the result is a fillet of fish that is tender, moist, easy to make and delicious. Happy Lent!

Baked Lemon and Pesto Steelhead Trout

Serves: 4 to 6

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2 pounds steelhead trout fillet, skin on or off
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons basil pesto
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a tad more for greasing the pan
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of crushed red peppers
Half a lemon, thinly sliced
1 ½ tablespoons butter, cut into 3 to 4 pieces
¼ cup dry white wine (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Lightly drizzle the foil with extra-virgin olive oil and place the steelhead trout fillet on the baking sheet, skin or flat side down. Sprinkle the top with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.


In a small bowl, use a fork or whisk to combine the pesto, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and crushed red peppers. Add the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper; taste and add more seasoning as desired.

Fold the sides of the foil up and in close to the fillet, but not covering the top — this keeps the juices close to the fish as it bakes. Brush the top of the fillet with the pesto vinaigrette, using all of it to evenly coat the surface.

Place the lemon slices 2 atop the fillet an inch or 2 apart. Scatter the pats of butter along the top and pour the white wine along the sides of the fillet.

Bake in the center of the oven until the trout is flaky and opaque inside and white juices emerge from the surface, about 18 to 23 minutes. You can also use a thermometer to check for doneness, with an internal temperature between 135 to 145 degrees.

Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the fillet to a serving platter and pour the juices around it. To serve, slip a spatula between the flaky flesh and the skin — the fillet should easily separate from the skin. Serve immediately.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • Bake the fish in advance and refrigerate to use in salads or pastas. Leftovers may be served warm or chilled.
  • Fish will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or may be frozen for up to 2 months.
  • This fish would be a great alternative to the chicken in my Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta dish.
  • Recommended side dishes include roasted potatoes and vegetables, olive oil-based pasta dishes, and hearty salads like farro.
Once baked, a thin spatula should easily separate the moist and tender flakes of trout from its skin.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at
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