Fennel (Finocchio) Side Dishes
Green Beans and Fennel
Fennel is native to the Mediterranean region, but has become widely naturalised in many parts of the world. This anise-flavored member of the parsley family is one of Italy's most popular vegetables.
Fennel has a bulbous base, stalks like celery, and feathery leaves that look like dill. The bulb, the leaves, and the seeds of the fennel plant are edible. The crisp and slightly sweet bulb is delicious served raw in salads. When sautéed, roasted, or grilled, the flavor mellows and the texture softens. Look for smooth white bulbs that are firm and free of cracks or brown spots.
Fennel is popular in the food of Tuscany and the South. Fennel seeds are used to flavor pork dishes and the famous Tuscan salami called la finocchiona, as well as other fresh and preserved sausages. In Puglia and other southern regions, fennel seeds are often used to make taralli (savory crackers), as well as bread and cookies.
How to Cut a Fennel Bulb:
Cut the stalks and fronds off the bulb. The fibrous stalks can be used to flavor fish stock. The fronds can be used to garnish any dish that contains fennel.
If the bulb is discolored or tough, discard the outer layer. Set the bulb on its flat bottom, top side up, then cut it in half. If you want pieces to stay together for grilling, keep the root end intact. Otherwise, trim about a half inch off the root end and cut out the core.
Set the fennel halves cut side down. Cut each half perpendicular to the fibers into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Cut each fennel half lengthwise to make quarters. Cut each quarter lengthwise into thin wedges.
Baked Fennel with Parmesan Cheese
(Serves 4 to 6)
2 large fennel bulbs, cut in half
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the fennel in boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the fennel bulbs lengthwise into 4 to 6 pieces. Place them in a buttered baking dish. Dot the top with butter; sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake until the cheese is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
2 large fennel bulbs
1-1/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
3 ounces grated Gruyere, Parmesan or pecorino cheese
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Butter a small baking dish.
Cut the fennel bulbs into quarters; place them in a large saucepan. Add the milk to the saucepan; bring the milk to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fennel is tender. Remove the fennel with a slotted spoon, reserving the milk. Arrange the fennel in the baking dish.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and then gradually whisk in the reserved milk. Season the sauce with salt and pepper; stir until thickened. Pour the sauce over the fennel. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Bake about 20 minutes or until browned.
Fennel and Green Beans
(Serves 4 to 6)
1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
Fennel fronds reserved for garnish
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons orange juice
Zest from half an orange
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a bowl, toss green beans with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.
On a baking sheet, toss fennel slices with 1 tablespoon oil. Season the fennel with salt and pepper. Bake the fennel for 15 minutes. Turn the fennel slices over and add the green beans. Bake for another 15 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter. Drizzle orange juice over the fennel and beans. Top with the orange zest, almonds, and reserved fennel fronds.
Sauteed Fennel with Garlic
2 medium fennel bulbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Trim the stems and fronds from the fennel bulbs. Mince and reserve 1 tablespoon of the fronds. Cut the bulb into 1/2-inch think slices.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the fennel slices and toss to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring often, until the fennel is lightly golden, 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the reserved fennel fronds and the parsley; serve.
Sometimes fennel can be a little difficult to slice thinly because of its shape. For best results, use a mandoline.
Some useful food words or terms that you may find in
Italian recipes, while dining at an Italian restaurant, or traveling in Italy.
Sausage is a prepared food usually made from ground meat, animal fat, salt and spices and is generally packed in a casing. In the US, Italian sausage is a style of pork sausage usually with a fennel seasoning.