Fennel Gratin (Finocchi Gratinati)

As a main course for the serata piemontese I prepared Brasato al Barolo, beef braised in Barolo wine. I used a wagyu brisket for this that was cooked sous-vide with 2 bottles of Barolo and aromatics for 48 hours at 57ºC/135ºF. The meat was tender and juicy and the sauce was amazing. I asked my friend Resi, who was born and raised in Piemonte, still lives there, and helps me out with my blog in Italian, for suggestions for a side dish for the brasato. She suggested a gratin of cauliflower, fennel, or cardoons. I chose fennel and it was indeed a great combination.

The fennel is first parboiled, then briefly browned in clarified butter, and then baked in the oven with bechamel and parmigiano. When I prepared this for the serata piemontese I forgot about the browning in clarified butter, and I only remembered while writing this post why it had tasted better when I made this for the first time (and took these photos). It accentuates the flavor of the fennel without exaggerating the ‘aniseed’ aspect of it. The browning is what takes this over the top, so don’t forget it like I did 😦


For 4 servings as a side

1 large fennel bulb or 2 small fennel bulbs

240 ml (1 cup) milk

25 grams (2 Tbsp) butter

25 grams (2 1/2 Tbsp) flour

salt and freshly ground white pepper

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

freshly grated nutmeg

butter for browning the fennel, preferably clarified

butter for buttering the oven dish


Wash and dry the fennel bulbs. Cut off the base and the fronds. Cut the fennel into quarters (or halves, if using small bulbs).

Parboil the fennel in salted boiling water for 10 minutes and then plunge them in cold water to stop the cooking.

Brown the fennel in (clarified) butter over high heat on all sides.

Make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter, adding the flour, adding warm milk (heated in the microwave), whisking energetically to avoid lumps, and then cooking over medium heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens.

Season the bechamel with freshly grated nutmeg, freshly ground white pepper, and salt.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/390ºF. Butter an oven dish and arrange the fennel in it.

Cover the fennel with the bechamel and a generous layer of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.

Bake for 20 minutes at 200ºC/390ºF or until the cheese has melted and is nicely golden.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.




Two years ago, I posted about oven-roasted beetroot with gorgonzola and balsamic vinegar. A great combination of flavors and the best way to cook beets!


14 thoughts on “Fennel Gratin (Finocchi Gratinati)

  1. Amazing, great idea. We made a sort of fennel dauphinoise a couple of times, but it was a bit too heavy on the cream for me. Now this though… This I think I could fall in love with!


  2. Looks fabulous, Stefan. One can’t really argue with licoricey fennel, fresh nutmeg, parmigiano reggiano or clarified butter. This really is a scrumptious, bubbly bite of heaven. Thank you for sharing! It is on my list of things to make. Warmly – Shanna


          1. Stefan –
            Abba the Pop Star is a very big fan of chocolate. I see your new, rich and moist cake recipe – headed over to your blog to comment. 🙂
            Oddly, one of the other doctors made his own, homemade smoked salmon for their weekly Wednesday conference yesterday. Abba was a big fan. I see that you have a few recipes on your blog – which is your favorite (and best for a novice in the curing of fish)?
            Have a great day –


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