This soup is one of my favorite ways to enjoy fennel: creamy in texture, gentle in flavor, and delicately colored, it owes its surprising depth to the enriching action of the Parmigiano rind that simmers along with the fennel. If you don’t have a Parmigiano rind on hand, add a splash of heavy cream after pureeing the soup.
- 1 large head fennel
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup whole or 2% milk
- 1 Parmigiano rind
- 6 basil leaves, cut into fine strips
Trim the fennel. Cut the fennel into 4 wedges, discard the tough core from each wedge, and slice very thinly. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of the leafy, wispy fronds for the garnish.
Place the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and add the shallot, garlic, and fennel seeds. Set over medium-low heat; cover. Cook until the shallot is lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes, stirring once in a while. Add the thinly sliced fennel, season with the salt and pepper, and cover again.
Cook 15 minutes, or until the fennel is soft, stirring once in a while. Add the water and milk, and drop in the Parmigiano rind, making sure the rind is fully submerged in the liquid. Bring to a gentle boil and lower the heat to a simmer; cook, covered, 30 minutes, or until the flavors have melded and the fennel is very tender. Watch that the soup does not boil, or the milk will curdle. Discard the rind.
Transfer carefully to a food processor and puree until perfectly smooth. Return to the pot and warm to just below a boil. Cook, uncovered, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon; if the soup is too thick, add a little more milk or water as needed. Adjust the seasoning and serve hot, garnished with the basil and the fennel fronds.