Roasted fennel becomes tender and sweet in the oven. In this recipe the vegetable is baked with a blanket of mozzarella, garlic, chili and parmesan cheese. Yum!
When was the last time you tried roasted fennel?
The same vegetable that lends its light anise licorice flavor and delicate crunch to quick slaws and salads transforms in the oven, becoming milder and sweeter. It works perfectly as the star in a warm, cheesy gratin.
If you’re not a fan of fennel when it’s raw, try baking the bulbs instead. Cooked fennel is tender when thoroughly cooked, and its distinctive flavor becomes muted. In this recipe, fennel’s natural flavor profile is amplified by some simple Italian-style seasonings — fennel seeds, chili flakes and plenty of garlic.
Fennel baked in a gratin makes a delicious alternative to the usual suspects like potatoes and other root vegetables. Plus, it smells amazing as it bakes!
Tips for fresh fennel and how to prepare for cooking:
- Choose 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.
- The stalks can be tough and stringy, but they are perfect to throw in vegetable and seafood stocks.
roasted fennel gratin with mozzarella and parmesan
Yield 4 -6 servings
This recipe was adapted from Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient by David Tanis.
- 2 1/2 pounds fennel (3 or 4 small bulbs)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 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 fresh whole milk mozzarella, shredded or sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- Preheat oven to 375 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 1/2-inch thick wedges.
- Boil the fennel for 1 minute in a pot of lightly salted water. Drain well.
- Put the fennel in a shallow baking dish. Combine the olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic, rosemary, chili and 1/2 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 minutes, until the cheese is browned and bubbling. Sprinkle with the parsley and some of the fennel frond leaves and serve.