Fennel is a marvellous vegetable, used as a digestive by Italians, and usually eaten raw in dishes like this fennel, mushroom & orange salad. Roasting it mellows its pronounced licorice like flavour, leaving it soft and creamy. A topping of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese becomes salty & crispy in this Roasted Fennel Gratin, making it the perfect complement to the softened fennel.
In warmer weather I do usually serve it raw in salads but these eternal wintry days begged for something warmer. Knowing the texture of the fennel needing some steaming or cooking first, and wanting to keep the recipe simple, I combined the steaming & roasting in one pan.
A handful of cherry tomatoes adds pops of colour and a little acidity. If you really want them to cook down, you could halve them – I tossed them in whole – just because I like the way they look.
After the initial steaming, the cheese & bread crumb topping is added, then cooked uncovered to get it crispy. I used gluten free bread crumbs, by crumbling up a slice of Udi’s whole grain GF bread – it’s what I buy when I’m not fumbling around, trying to bake my own GF breads.
This would be divine served alongside any main course – whether meat or vegetarian. It would also be smashing on its own, served as a first course salad, and equally delicious whether hot, warm or at room temperature.
I encourage you to try fennel, if you’ve never tried it before. This straightforward recipe for Roasted Fennel Gratin is interesting and full of flavour. If you do eat fennel, do you have a favourite recipe?
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb
- about 12 small cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup GF bread crumbs (use regular or Panko bread crumbs if gluten is not an issue)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 teaspoons approx. extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat your oven to 400º
- Add the tablespoon of olive oil to a 9 x 13” baking pan, spreading it over the bottom.
- To prep the fennel trim off any outer brown spots and cut off the stalks & fronds, leaving just the bulb.
- With the bulb standing up, cut it in half.
- Lay the halves cut side down, with the bottom/root end towards you. Cut into 1/2” thick slices leaving some of the root end in each piece - to help hold them together, but don’t worry if some of them fall apart.
- Layer the fennel slices in the pan, slightly overlapping.
- Scatter over the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then add the water.
- Cover with foil and cook for 20 - 25 minutes.
- Remove the foil cover and sprinkle over the bread crumb & cheese mixture.
- Bake for approx 15 minutes until golden, and piercing underneath to see that the fennel is soft.
- Serve as a salad or side dish to any main course.
- *Equally delicious served hot, warm or at room temperature.