This fennel baked in cream is a gratin baked with Parmesan that’s rich, cream, and easy to make by baking wedges of fennel in heavy cream. Simple, elegant, and surprisingly irresistible.
Fennel baked in cream is an Italian classic that no fewer than 13 of our testers–a baker’s dozen–rushed to make. And then proceeded to wax poetic about their experience with it. It’s a simple, satiating, stunning, unexpected side dish that’s both swanky and rustic. If you aren’t quite convinced this fennel baked in cream recipe belongs on your table, but you are the type who doesn’t mind a movie review giving away the ending, by all means, skip ahead and read the reviews from our testers found below the recipe before deciding if it belongs on your table.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Fennel Baked in Cream
- 1 1/2 pounds (about 2 large bulbs) fennel stalks removed, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) wide wedges
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small chunks
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C).
- In a bowl, toss together the fennel, cream, and 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish and dot with as much or as little of the butter as you wish, depending on how rich a dish you prefer. (You can assemble the ingredients in the baking dish and refrigerate for up to 24 hours if you need to get the prep work done ahead of time.)
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour.
- Uncover the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Continue baking, uncovered, until the fennel is tender and the surface is well browned, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This recipe is meant for six to eight although we ended up devouring it just between the two of us. It was that good.
I was initially hesitant about the proportions — anything over a stick of butter or a cup of cream I usually avoid. But this dish is entirely worth the indulgence. The cream is less stodgy than using a béchamel, and it bakes down into the most ethereal custard. I forgot the butter topping and the dish didn’t seem to suffer from the lack.
The only adjustment I’d make would be on temperature. I ended up with a rim of carbonized cream; maybe lower to 400°. Otherwise, I can’t wait to make it again, and perhaps try it with leeks.
What can I say — this fennel gratin is outstanding! You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make a delicious dish. Even those who think they don’t like fennel will fall in love with this one. The flavor of the fennel really mellows baking in the cream and Parmesan bath. The fennel gets very tender and the top turns a beautiful golden color.
I will be making this one for Christmas dinner! Be warned, though, when warming up the leftovers — if there are any — the cream turns to butter and melts.
The reason this fennel gratin recipe attracted me is that for years I have been trying to get my family to enjoy fennel as I do. Well, this recipe made it happen. Everyone absolutely loved the taste of this creamy side dish. We served it with a broiled chicken and there was no need for further sides. The fennel melted in one’s mouth, and the cheese just enhanced the whole experience.
My only comment is I would forego the butter next time, as I do not really think it is needed. Both the cream and the cheese already have their own fat.
My dinner guests and I all felt very Italian eating this deliciously creamy fennel baked in cream dish! Everyone at the table loved this and I loved it as the cook since it was so easy to prepare. The anise flavor of the fennel worked really well with the cream and saltiness of the Parmesan cheese.
In terms of salt, I would use caution with adding it, since there is already so much saltiness in the cheese—I used about 1/4 teaspoon and that worked well. I would definitely serve this dish on its own plate; we put it as a side dish on a plate with beef tenderloin, and it was so creamy it slowly started taking over the entire plate! (No complaints though, as the more creamy fennel on the plate, the better!)
I will definitely be making this dish again.
Flavorful fennel—what could be better? Fennel baked in cream and Parmigiano is the best you can get! Easy to put together, and it bakes alongside whatever else you need to have in the oven. Golden on top, smooth, creamy, and rich underneath that crust! And all of that along with eating your vegetables too! Fantastic.
WOW! This fennel gratin is sinfully delicious. It’s rich and luxurious. It’s easy as can be to make. It can be scaled up and back without even thinking.
A little does go a long way. I will definitely be making this again and again, but I will scale back the recipe if there are just the two of us. Leftovers were very good, but not quite as wonderful as eating the dish right away. A great dish to wow company with. A great dish if you want something comforting or just something extra special without much effort.
First of all, this gratin would not serve more than four if everyone, like me, adores all things creamy, cheesy, and bubbly. I read the recipe and wondered if the fennel slices would cook down to mushy nothingness after 1 1/2 hours in the oven at a rather high temperature, and if the wonderful anise aroma would be overpowered by all that cream and cheese. Well, my pre-trial concerns were blown away when I saw and tasted the end result. It had all the qualities I had wanted: hearty, creamy, fragrant, tender, and golden. The fennel wedges held their shape beautifully, and that unique flavor was still there, packed in each layer of the bulb. What a relief.
Some people might find this dish too rich, though. If I were to omit anything from the recipe for such guests, it would be the butter, as I suspect the gratin would still brown nicely without it. Replacing half of the heavy cream with half-and-half or whole milk may be worth a try.
This was so easy to make and a lovely side dish to the roast chicken. I have not cooked much with fennel, but I loved the flavors of the slight sweet and licorice mixed with the cream and cheese. Not very healthy but worth the calories!
Every holiday that I host, I am determined to substitute an age-old favorite with something new. My goal is to create new traditions. I want my family to associate my table with new essences—something special. Trust me, I don’t take away the beloved (hell has no fury as to not serve mashed potatoes on a holiday—my sister-in-law learned the hard way) but I do a switcheroo on a traditional dish that’s ho-hum. This year I am incorporating this recipe. It’s delicious and now it’s “all mine.” This would be divine with prime rib on Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
You’ll find that the edges get quite caramelized. Let it be, this is not a mistake. I actually really like the dark edges around the sides of the casserole dish, and it makes the overall flavor three-dimensional.
This was not a quick dish, nor a low-fat one, but it was incredibly simple to make and absolutely delicious. The fennel gets completely soft and you get a nicely browned top. Classy enough to deserve a spot on your holiday table.
In the future, I might use a bit less butter. I think half that would have been enough to dot over the top and encourage browning. With the full amount there were a few pools of butter. I also might add some crushed fennel seeds, to up the fennel flavor.
Not disappointed by this easy recipe using delicious and unique fennel. If you’ve never tried fennel gratin, it’s a great idea for a different side dish for the holiday. It’s lovely with pork or poultry or even beef.
This recipe works exactly as written—I made it a second time and sautéed the cut-up fennel first with a little butter and white wine, just to get some of the liquid out of it to make the dish a little thicker, and it was perfect, and the grated Parmesan sits on top a little better instead of sinking somewhat. Either way works, and if you want the easiest, do the original.
Originally published December 09, 2019
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This fennel baked in cream was just so lovely. From the cream to the fennel to the crisp Parmesan on top! I loved it! It was great and I will make it again and again! I actually used some light cream, as that’s what I had in the house, it worked great and I felt a little better for it. I had some excellent Parm and that made this dish just extra special!