Oven-roasting mellows the strong licorice flavor of fennel and brings out wonderful nuttiness and creaminess. Olive oil and grated parmesan further enhance its flavor and turn it into a true delicacy!
If you've never tried fennel before, you're in for a treat! The anise-flavored, crunchy bulbs are completely transformed in the oven into a wonderfully creamy, cheesy, and caramelized side dish.
The only caveat: a faint licorice flavor remains even after cooking, so if you're not a fan of this particular flavor, perhaps fennel is not the best choice for you. Here are some other vegetable recipes for you to choose from.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make roasted fennel. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Fennel bulbs: Pick ones with smooth white skin with no brown spots.
Olive oil: My favorite oil! It's so very tasty. Another yummy option is melted butter.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
Grated Parmesan: Make sure you use finely grated parmesan and not coarsely shredded. There's a difference.
How to cook fennel
I love roasting it in the oven! Scroll down to the recipe card for the detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
You start by slicing the fennel bulbs. Then arrange the slices in a baking dish.
Drizzle the slices with olive oil and toss to coat, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Next, bake them for 15 minutes in a 425°F oven.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Sprinkle the partially cooked slices with grated parmesan. Return to the oven and bake until tender and browned, about 15 more minutes.
The reason this recipe works so well is the hot oven. You want the fennel slices to caramelize - that's when their flavor and texture transform. So make sure your oven is set to 425 degrees F. A lower oven won't work as well.
Another important tip is to dry the bulbs well after you rinse them. This is another way to ensure that the fennel roasts in the oven rather than steams.
Frequently asked questions
The raw vegetable has a strong anise flavor. Some people like it, others find it objectionable. Cooking transforms it, though. Oven-baking caramelizes the bulbs. It downplays their licorice flavor and brings out a nutty, delicious creaminess, further enhanced in my version by grated parmesan.
Yes. You can slice the bulb very thinly and add it to salads. It will add a licorice flavor and a crunchy texture. Keep in mind that in its raw state, this vegetable has a pretty strong anise flavor, and not everyone is a fan. So it's best to use it sparingly.
Yes. The bulb is delicious whether raw or cooked and the leaves can be chopped and added to salads. The stalks, however, while edible, are quite tough, so I usually discard them. Although - for those who like their flavor - they can be added to soups or stews as a flavoring agent, then discarded.
Variations and substitutions
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- Use melted butter to coat the fennel slices instead of olive oil.
- You can sprinkle the dish with garlic powder in addition to salt and pepper. Try ½ teaspoon.
- Sprinkle the finished dish with red pepper flakes.
Recommended main dishes
You can serve roasted fennel with any main dish you would normally serve with a starchy side such as potatoes. In other words, this is a side dish that goes with anything!
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3-4 days. Reheat them in the microwave on 50% power. They're not as good as when served fresh, but they are still pretty good!
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Roasted Fennel with Olive Oil and Parmesan
- 2 large fennel bulbs about 1 lb.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
- Remove the stems of the fennel. Rinse and dry the bulbs. Slice each bulb in half lengthwise. With the cut side down, slice the bulb vertically into ½-inch-thick slices.
- Arrange the fennel slices in a 13 X 9 -inch baking dish. Drizzle them with the olive oil and use your hands to coat them well. Sprinkle the fennel with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven, gently toss the fennel slices, then sprinkle them evenly with grated parmesan cheese.
- Return the pan to the oven and keep baking until the fennel is fork-tender and the top is golden brown, about 15 more minutes.