Fennel Gratin

I never used to know what to do with fennel, but these days, I can’t get enough of it. Fennel is the most wonderfully versatile vegetable. You can slice raw fennel thin and serve it with a little shaved Parmesan for a crisp salad. Or you can plop it in the oven with a little balsamic and roast it until it gets sweetly caramelized. Fennel has a special affinity for Parmesan, and in this simple gratin fennel wedges are tossed with breadcrumbs, Mozzarella and Parm, and baked until golden brown. A lovely side for lighter fare, such chicken or fish, and would also work well as a dressy side for a holiday meal.

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Fennel gratin just out of the oven, cooling on the stovetop

Fennel Gratin Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serve 6-8 as a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fennel bulbs (3 lbs with fronds), about 3-4 bulbs
  • Salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (herbed or plain)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • Chopped fennel fronds, for garnish

Method

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1 Cut off the fronds and stems of the fennel and save them for another dish; they are a great addition to stocks and broths. Cut the bulbs in quarters, then 1-2 inch pieces; discard the woody cores.

2 Grease a casserole pan or gratin pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and preheat the oven to 375°.

3 Boil the fennel in a medium pot of salty water for 5-6 minutes, or until the fennel is just about tender. Drain well and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.

4 Mix the parmesan, thyme and bread crumbs, then mix half of that mixture with the fennel. Add the fennel to the casserole in an even layer. Top with the mozzarella cheese, then the rest of the parmesan-bread crumb mixture. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top.

5 Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes. Take the cover off and bake until the cheese is well browned, about 15 more minutes. Let the gratin rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh fennel fronds.

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Links:

Fennel and Potato Gratin - from Herbivoracious
Cauliflower Gratin - from Smitten Kitchen
Cardoon Gratin - from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

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14 Comments

  1. Florence

    I’d like to use this recipe to bring to a Christmas dinner in a friend’s home. Should I bake it there or at home and reheat it there?

    Love fennel!

    I think you could go either way, though if you bake it there the top will be crispier. ~Elise

  2. PatV

    As I recall, fennel has a “licor-ishy” flavor – when this is cooked as recommended, does that flavor diminish somewhat?? i’d like to try this recipe – sounds really good but only if the above is true. Thanks very much.

    The licorice flavor is much reduced once the fennel is cooked. -Elise

  3. Jay @ LocalFood.me

    Special place in my heart for fennel. Another great option is to add it French bread with a little oil, bit of cheese, splash of lemon, and broil for a few minutes. One of my favorites.

  4. Elena

    Oh my God, this Fennel gratin is so delicious!!! I’ve just cooked it and it came first, so I have to stop myself from eating it before rice and fish will be finished! I haven’t ever tried fennel before and first thought that its smell is too strong and unusuall for me, but the majority of it disappeated after it been cooked! Elise, thank you for this amaizing recipe!

  5. Bill

    There’s a great Harvey Steiman recipe: slice 3 bulbs of fennel and an onion, and cook in a couple of Tbs of butter till softened. Mix in 4 cups cannellini beans and some basil, put in a casserole dish, top with strips of bacon, cover, and put in a 400 oven for 30 minutes. Remove cover and roast for another 30 minutes. Serve. Of course, this is good with some diced or sliced ham added, too.

    Also — cheap fennel at TJ’s.

    Sounds wonderful, thank you Bill! ~Elise

  6. kale @ tastes good to me!

    This is gorgeous! You’re right, the fennel gets milder when cooked like this. I would thinly slice the tops to throw together a nice crisp salad to have the pure fennel flavor alongside it! (Totally agree they’re also a fab addition to a broth base.)

  7. Rossella

    I am not a fan of fennel myself, though in my family we gratin it with béchamel and lots of parmigiano (after boiling 7 mins like you did). it is a valid alternative for those who do not fancy mozzarella (if there are any!:).

  8. shorthand

    Oooo, this looks delicious, and I can’t wait to fix this! I know you said lighter fare, but what do you think about serving this along with venison stew and rice?

    You could try it. The taste is more on the subtle side though, so that’s why we recommend it as a side to fowl or fish. ~Elise

  9. Elizabeth Barna

    I made this yesterday and it was excellent.The mixture of Parmesan and Mozzarella made it perfect. Thanks.

  10. Dave

    Made this last night. Was very good, but I thought the Parmesan overpowered the fennel. Perhaps a milder cheese, like fontina, would let the fennel flavor shine through more?

    I would just cut back on the Parm. ~Elise

  11. John Copeland

    First time I’ve cooked with fennel. The gentle flavor of the parcooked fennel in combo with the 2 cheeses, seasoned bread crumbs and thyme was just right with lamb loin chops done on the grill.
    A keeper.

  12. Louee

    Made this last night – was so delish! Substituted a quarter cup of the Kraft Shake n Bake ranch breadcrumbs instead of adding thyme and the result was great! The boyfriend was wary about fennel but he ended up loving it!
    Thank you!

  13. Maria Evans

    Thanks so much for your website. It’s one of the first places I go when looking for meal ideas. I’m making this for dinner this week, and am just curious if boiling the fennel was a matter of ease of prep or if it makes a difference in the end flavor (as opposed to sauteeing or roasting it). Thanks again.

    You boil the fennel first to cook it. Putting the dish in the oven is to brown the top and melt the cheese. ~Elise

  14. Florence

    I am a fan of Japanese bread crumbs, do you think they would work well in this recipe?

    I think panko would work great here. ~Elise

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