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Fork-tender roasted fennel is sweet and oh-so-delicious! Bake this easy side dish in the oven under a blanket of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. Yum!
Have you tried roasted fennel? Don’t miss out — it’s one of the best vegetable recipes you can make, and far from ordinary. This recipe shows that roasting is one of the best ways to use fennel!
Fennel is same vegetable that lends its light anise licorice flavor and delicate crunch to quick slaws and salads transforms in the oven, becoming fork-tender, mild and sweet. It works perfectly as the star in a warm, cheesy vegetable gratin.
What does fennel taste like?
Fennel is a vegetable also known as Florence fennel or finocchio. Botanically it’s a member of the carrot family, along with celery. It has a pleasant natural sweetness, with a crisp, bulb section with stalks, and feathery fennel fronds on top.
It tastes like anise, with a sweet licorice-like flavor that people tend to either love or despise. Roasted fennel becomes meltingly tender, and its distinctive licorice flavor becomes sweet and muted.
So if you’re not sure if you even like fennel, roasting it is a much more approachable way to start enjoying it.
In this fennel recipe, the vegetable’s natural flavor profile is amplified by some simple Italian-style seasonings — fennel seeds, chili flakes, plenty of garlic and lots of cheese.
Sliced fennel baked like a gratin makes a delicious alternative to the usual suspects like potatoes and other root vegetables.
Expert tips for preparing fresh fennel:
- Choose fresh bulbs that still have their stalks and fronds attached, which is a good sign of freshness. The feathery leaves also have delicate flavor and make a beautiful garnish.
- Look for fennel bulbs with outer layers that are firm and white, not dried and turning brown.
- Use a vegetable peeler to trim the outer layers, removing any tough parts and fibers.
- To ensure the fennel is tender, the wedges are blanched for one minute in boiling water before roasting.
- Gluten free breadcrumbs can be substituted.
- The stalks can be tough and stringy, but they can be saved. They are perfect to throw in vegetable soups, chicken broth, and seafood soups (like Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse)
Roasted Fennel Wedges with Parmesan
- 2 ½ pounds (1135 g) fresh fennel, 3 or 4 small bulbs
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 3 garlic cloves, pressed or smashed into a paste with a large knife
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Pinch of crushed red chili pepper
- 8 ounces (225 g) fresh whole milk mozzarella, shredded or sliced thinly
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- ½ cup (50 g) grated Parmigiano cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- Preheat oven to 375 (190) degrees.
- Trim off the fennel stalks, reserving some of the feathery leaves for garnish. Make a thin slice on the bottom of each bulb to clean the root end, but keep the base intact. Use a vegetable peeler to pare the outer layer of the bulb, removing any discolored and tough, stringy parts. Slice into ½-inch thick wedges.
- Boil the fennel for 1 minute in a pot of lightly salted water. Drain well and pat dry.
- Put the fennel in a shallow baking dish. Combine the olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic, rosemary, chili and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
- Pour the oil mixture over the fennel and toss well so that each piece is evenly coated. Cover the fennel with the mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle the bread crumbs over. Sprinkle with the parmesan.
- Bake 25-30 minutes, until the fennel is tender, and the cheese is browned and bubbling. Sprinkle with the parsley and some of the fennel frond leaves and serve.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Make ahead: The fennel can be prepped and arranged in a baking dish with the cheese and refrigerated up to 2 days before roasting.