Fennel Gratin [photograph: Dino De Angelis]

Mom’s Roasted Fennel with Parmigiano

I grew up eating my mom’s roasted fennel and loving it; but when I tried to make it on my own, after I moved out of my parents’ home, I just couldn’t get it to taste anywhere near as good as my mom’s. The trick: boiling the fennel before roasting it. If you skip the boiling step, the fennel will come out stringy and fibrous rather than sweet and caramelized.

I always make more than I need of this just so I can enjoy leftovers; you can chop up any extra  fennel and warm it again as a sauce for pasta, or throw it on slices of focaccia topped with Mozzarella or Fontina and bake until the bread is crispy; or stir into beaten eggs with a splash of cream for a heavenly frittata.

Serves 4

  • 3 fennel bulbs
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup (28 grams or 1 ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 325°F (preferably set on convection ).

Rinse the fennel bulbs and cut the tops off each; reserve the feathery fronds to garnish salads or soups, and the stalks for stocks or as a base for roasting fish or lamb. Cut off about 1/4 inch at the bottom of each bulb. Quarter each fennel and cut out the fibrous triangular core from each quarter. Slice each quarter thickly.

fennelcore.

fennelsliceRinse the sliced fennel under running water to eliminate any remaining grit from between the layers.

fennelrinse

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Drop in the fennel and add 1 tablespoon of the salt; cover and cook over medium heat  for 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Drain, rinse under cool water, and drain again.

Place on 2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with the olive oil, and season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano and then spread out on the baking sheets so the fennel is in a single layer if possible. Sprinkle the top with the  remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano.

fennelcheese

Roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown on top and lightly crisp around the edges, stirring once in a while to promote even browning. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve hot.