Easy Cook: Italian-Seasoned Baked Catfish Filets

Every now and then, it’s nice to have such a quick and simple supper entrée to prepare, that you can almost make it in your sleep. This “melt-in-your-mouth” baked catfish recipe is very easy to cook and it is also very tasty. There is no chopping, dicing, stirring or mixing involved. It is a great recipe to fix when I arrive home from work, exhausted, but still want a home-cooked supper. I have several of these “simple” catfish recipes. This first recipe involves a “secret” ingredient.

We are lucky to have I.Q.F (individually quick frozen) farm-raised catfish filets for sale in our local grocery stores. The 3 to 5 pound packages are not inexpensive. However, it is easy to take out of the freezer exactly the number many filets you need for supper as the filets don’t stick together — they are individually frozen. This is a five ounce catfish filet which is the right amount for one serving (except my husband can easily eat two of these). A filet of this size quickly defrosts in cold water on the kitchen counter.

Fresh catfish for supper without having go fishing.

One of the interesting aspects of living in southern Louisiana is the unique things that you find locally. I continue to be amazed. We stumbled upon live catfish — in the tank to the right — at a local seafood market when we went there to purchase boiled crawfish. In this section of the store, you pick out a live catfish which appeals to you from the fresh water tank. The employees in the back of the store filet the catfish while you watch. And farm-raised catfish filets have a milder, sweeter flavor than catfish which has been harvested in the wild. I bet this lady is going to take her catfish home and make an awesome fried catfish supper for her family.

Well, I’ll stick to the frozen catfish filets from my neighborhood grocery store rather driving to pick up these truly “fresh” catfish filets. This particular seafood store is always busy, it is a true “southern” experience.

Although fried catfish is the traditional way to prepare this fish in Louisiana, there are plenty of other great catfish recipes — including baked catfish.

“Secret Ingredient”

Here are the ingredients for this recipe. The “secret ingredient” is commercial Italian salad dressing. The bottled Italian salad dressing, when poured over the catfish, gives the dish a great seasoned flavor. So simple. No one would know. Which type of Italian salad dressing works best? I like traditional Italian salad dressings (vinegar and oil varieties) or “Zesty” Italian dressing — it’s best not to get a type that is too sweet. The brand really doesn’t matter.

Before you say, “this recipe sounds a little weird,” it really works. My goal is to make a practical and tasty supper, not a gourmet masterpiece. We actually made this recipe in my food service catering days, it was always successful. I believe at that time we used redfish filets rather than catfish. So any mild, thin fish filets should work.

Making the recipe

To make this recipe, defrost the catfish filets and pat them dry. If you plan ahead, let filets defrost in your refrigerator overnight. Or, if short of time, defrost them in bowl filled with cool water — this takes only 30 minutes or so. Technically you should leave the water dripping so the bacteria flow over the edge of the bowl. In any event, don’t leave the filets unattended for very long.

Add the defrosted filets to a lightly oiled casserole dish which is just large enough to hold the filets. Next, sprinkle the tops of the filets with flour, and sprinkle on salt and pepper to season. (You don’t need to turn the filets over to season the bottom side.) Then pour commercial Italian salad dressing over the filets in a thin layer (shake the bottle well first). Use the back of a spoon to spread the dressing around so that all the flour is coated. (Bottom left photo.) Don’t let the Italian dressing go past the edges of the catfish filets — the dressing will burn. Bake the filets in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes for defrosted, five ounce catfish filets. (Three ounce filets will take 15 minutes to bake.) Don’t overbake the filets or they will be dry.

Serve the catfish with a salad, coleslaw or another vegetable and French fries. These catfish filets “melt-in-your mouth.” What a quick and easy supper! There are never any leftovers which I prepare catfish in this manner. Enjoy!

Italian-Seasoned Baked Catfish Filets

  • Servings: 2 to 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 to 4 (five ounce) catfish filets, frozen
  • all-purpose flour (about 2 Tbsp)
  • salt to taste
  • dash black ground pepper
  • Italian salad dressing (about 2 Tbsp)

Instructions and Steps:

  1. Ahead of time, defrost catfish filets overnight in refrigerator. Alternately, place catfish filets in large bowl, fill with cool water. Occasionally turn catfish filets over and replace cool water. When completely defrosted, drain and pat dry.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 7″ x 9″ casserole dish with oil or a casserole dish just large enough to hold filets in a single layer..
  3. Place defrosted catfish filets in casserole dish.
  4. Sprinkle flour over catfish filets.
  5. Season by lightly sprinkling on salt and pepper..
  6. Shake bottle of Italian salad dressing until dressing is homogenized. Pour a thin layer of salad dressing over the catfish filets. Use the back side of a spoon to smooth out the dressing and cover all the flour.
  7. Place in pre-heated oven and bake 20 minutes for five ounce filets. (For 3 ounce filets, back 15 minutes.) Catfish filets should easily flake.
  8. Remove from oven and serve from casserole dish.

NOTE: Amount of catfish filets can be adjusted basted on number of servings desired. Catfish should be totally defrosted prior to baking and should fit in a single layer in casserole dish.

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