Fennel recipes: creamy gratin

Mild and delicate, fennel is a fantastically versatile vegetable to cook with. While it’s available throughout the year in the UK, it’s at its very best over the summer months, so now is the perfect time to have some fun with it.

The wonderful thing about fennel and these fennel recipes is that you can use the whole thing – from juicy bulb to delicate frond tips. You can enjoy it raw, shaved finely into salads, or it’s beautiful steamed, baked, braised or roasted until wonderfully soft. Keep the aromatic leafy tops for herbal teas, next-level garnishes or salad toppers, and don’t forget  to chuck the celery-like stems into stocks or soups. For maximum freshness and longevity, it’s best to store fresh fennel in the fridge. 

When it comes to flavour matches, with fennel you’re spoilt for choice. Thanks to its subtle aniseed taste, it’s so good with seafood – whether that’s stuffed into whole fish, shaved into an accompanying side salad, or tossed through a pasta dish. But it’s also delicious with chicken or pork, particularly sausages.

Need some inspiration? Here are our favourite fennel recipes, so give them a go! 

Elevate your weekly Sunday roast with this easy fennel bake. Outrageously cheesy, garlicky and delicious, it’ll go down a treat at a fancy dinner party, too. Mix up the cheeses depending on what you’ve already got knocking about in the fridge, and don’t forget to save the leafy fennel tops for a pretty garnish. 

Crab and fennel pair beautifully in this quick seafood pasta. With a kick of chilli and lots of juicy cherry tomatoes, this makes a cracking midweek dinner for two. On the table in under 20 minutes, properly satisfying, and you only need five ingredients – yes please! 

Big-up fennel in this fun twist on a classic Italian parmigiana. With a rosemary-spiked tomato sauce and topped with zesty breadcrumbs, it’s sure to go down a storm. Feel free to swap the Lincolnshire Poacher for your favourite hard cheese – Cheddar, Parmesan or Comté would all work a treat. 

Let the oven do the hard work with this simple vegetarian bake – just nine minutes of prep time and you’re done! Crispy, golden fennel topped with Parmesan cream and finished off with leafy fennel tops, it’s a total dream. Delicious as it is, or with pan-fried fish on the side. 

Using fennel bulb and seeds, this super-creamy risotto really packs a flavour punch. If you can get hold of a good-quality ricotta, it’ll make all the difference, but fresh goat’s cheese works well here too. Comforting and ready in under an hour. Buon appetito! 

Keep things simple with this three-ingredient fennel dish. Sweet, caramelised fennel bulbs with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and caraway – it’s a thing of beauty. Ideal with steamed fish, alongside roast chicken, or as part of a warm salad. Use this as a principle recipe, tweaking the spices as you prefer – cumin seeds, dried oregano or even fennel seeds would all work well as substitutes. 

Light, elegant and super fresh, this no-cook salad recipe ticks all the boxes. With creamy avocado, pops of zesty orange and fresh mint, what’s not to love? Plus, it only takes 15 minutes to rustle up. Perfect as a starter, a posh weekend lunch or as part of an alfresco feast. 

With minimal ingredients yet heaps of flavour, this impressive-looking fish dish couldn’t be easier to whip up. Swap the sea bass for whole trout or mackerel, if you like. Ready in just 45 minutes and properly straightforward, this is ideal for a relaxing date night at home. Dinner for two, done! 

Go all-out with this gorgeous salad. Shaved fennel, quick crêpes and truffle oil come together to make this one a little bit special. Can’t get hold of bresaola? Slices of smoked salmon, hunks of Taleggio or shavings of hard goat’s cheese would all work just as well.

With perfectly roasted fennel, Parmesan and garlic, these vegetarian meatballs are a thing of joy. Fantastic with spaghetti for a veggie twist on a classic family favourite, but they’re equally great in their own right and simply tossed in this balsamic tomato sauce. Just leave out the chilli if you’re cooking for kids.

Want to know how to prepare your fennel? Gennaro Contaldo will show you in just one minute. Watch the video below.




FAQs

How do you cook fennel?

You can cook fennel in all sorts of ways – steamed, baked, braised or roasted – all of which will soften the aniseed flavour. You can also eat it raw, and is great finely sliced into salads. Check out our fantastic recipes here.

Is fennel good for you?

Fennel is a source of potassium, which helps our muscles to work properly.

Can you eat raw fennel?

Yes, you can absolutely eat it raw – the bulb is delicious sliced finely and added to salads. You can also eat the leaves raw, which are great in herbal teas, or used as a garnish.

What flavour does fennel have?

Fennel has a distinctive aniseed flavour.