Fish Niçoise

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I love the Mediterranean flavors of this dish. If you have a skillet large enough to hold everything the recipes doubles well, though it may take a few minutes longer for the sauce to reduce.

If you want to get fancy, reserve some of the fennel fronds and use them to garnish the final dish.

The quickest way to thinly slice basil leaves it to make a chiffonade: Stack up the leaves and roll them into a tight little cigar, then slice thinly. Unroll and you'll have perfect ribbons.

Make Baby Food: This is fine for babies, either pureed  or cut up—the only thing to give you pause is the alcohol. Much of it cooks off, but since the cooking time is relatively short there will still be some remaining in the sauce. For the record, fennel, olives, and capers were among Harry's favorite foods when he was about eight months old.

Mama Said: "Super easy and super delicious. I had never chopped fennel or cook with Niçoise olives or capers before, even though I've eaten all of those things plenty of times, so it was a big success for me. And cooking fish, well, I never do that right, except I did this time, and it was so easy!" Lee P., mom of two, Pittsburgh, PA



Cooking Time35 min

Cooking Time - Text35

Cooking Methodsauteeing



Total Timeunder 1 hour

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturegarlicky, salty, savory


  • Two 6-ounce tilapia fillets (or any other white-fleshed fish)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks trimmed and discarded, halved vertically, cored, and sliced as thinly as possible (see Notes)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup dry, white wine or vermouth
  • Once 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • ¼ cup chopped, pitted Niçoise or other brine-cured black olives 
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves (see Notes)
  • Lemon wedges for serving


Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet (that can be covered) over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the fennel, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until fennel starts to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine and raise heat to medium-high. Simmer until wine reduces slightly, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes along with their juice. Simmer until the sauce thickens and the fennel is soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in the olives and capers. Add the fish, nestling it into the sauce. Cover skillet and simmer until fish is opaque all the way through, 8 to 10 minutes. Fish overcooks quickly, so watch carefully. For fillets thinner than one inch, check at the 7-minute mark. If the fish is opaque, it's done.

Gently stir basil into the sauce, and serve with lemon wedges.

Make it Faster:

An even quicker version of this dish is Spicy Sauteed Fish with Olives and Grape tomatoes, which is ready in under 20 minutes: Salt and pepper the fish, then cook in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter and keep warm. Add ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, ½ teaspoon red peper flakes, 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved, ¼ cup chopped, pitted Nicoise or Kalamata olives, 3 garlic cloves, minced, and the grated zest and juice of ½ lemon to the pan and cook until the tomatoes are soft and juicy, about 3 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, then spoon over the fish and serve with rice to catch all those delicious juices.



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