Today’s recipe – this delicious Roasted Fennel and Onion Gratinati – was inspired by a trip to Italy, and a goat named Tina. Read on… 🙂
My husband Jack and I first enjoyed a dish very similar to this Roasted Fennel and Onion Gratinati on our honeymoon to Tuscany, Italy many years ago. Over the years, we’ve tinkered a bit with this delicious recipe to get it to where it is today: super-thinly-sliced fennel and sweet red onions that are tossed with extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese, and lightly seasoned with thyme. The gratinati is roasted in the oven until the fennel and onions are tender and golden brown on top!
So – the other day when we made this recipe, it reminded Jack of the time during his childhood when his mother (aka Nanny) grew fennel in their backyard garden. All summer long, she babied that fennel – and it was growing beautifully!
In addition to growing a wonderful garden in the backyard, Jack’s parents also raised some animals – chickens, ducks, rabbits, pheasant, a horse, pigeons, cats, dogs, and a goat named Tina. Jack tells me that Tina was a real pain in the ‘you-know-what’ – stubborn and headstrong!
So one day, Nanny was sitting outside enjoying the nice weather in the backyard, and Tina the goat wandered up to where she was sitting. Tina burped right in Nanny’s face – and then Nanny smelled a distinct licorice smell! It took Nanny about five seconds before she realized that Tina had eaten Nanny’s beloved fennel that she spent all summer growing! (Nanny was so mad!)
We actually saw Nanny a few weekends ago at a family birthday party, and she told me this same story – so I had to share it here! To this day, anytime I cook with fennel, I’m going to think of Tina, that pesky goat!
- 2 bulbs fennel (about 1½ pounds)
- 1 medium red or sweet onion (about ½ pound)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped (or half that of dried)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus ¼ cup more for a topping
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Cut off green tops from fennel and discard. Using a sharp knife, shave the outer bulb to trim off browned or tough outer skin to reveal inner tender part of bulb. Cut in half top to bottom and cut out core.
- Using a mandolin, slice fennel into very thin slices, or slice extremely thin by hand.
- Trim off tops and bottom of onion, remove peel and cut in half top to bottom. Repeat slicing the same thickness as the fennel.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add fennel and onion and bring back to a boil. Lower heat and boil gently (slightly more than a simmer) for five minutes. If your slices are a little thick, additional cooking may be needed until fennel is tender.
- Pour into a colander to drain.
- In a medium bowl, place fennel and onion and add olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper and ½ cup of the cheese. Mix to incorporate all ingredients. Divide mixture between four medium to large ramekins (we used flat crème brulee dishes), that have been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, or place the entire mixture into a larger shallow casserole dish. Divide remaining Parmesan over the tops of the four portions (or casserole dish).
- Place ramekins or casserole dish in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until hot and golden brown.
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