Finocchi gratinati is a comforting, warm dish, perfect to serve during the cold season. The combination of creamy besciamella sauce and fennel creates a satisfying and hearty side dish.

Finocchi gratinati is an Italian popular dish made of tender fennel layered with a creamy sauce and topped with cheese. All are assembled in a casserole and baked to perfection to deliver a flavorful contorno which is the Italian name for a side dish.

Fennel has a particular anise taste that goes perfectly with the delicate flavor of the white Italian sauce, and who doesn’t love a super gooey cheese that comes out of the oven still bubbling?

The recipe is super easy to make and so versatile that can be served as a fancy side for special occasions or just as a tasty main course along with crusty bread any day of the week!

Finocchi gratinati with a portion removed from the baking dish.

Ingredients

  • Fennel: Fresh fennel bulbs, usually 2-3 bulbs, cleaned and cut into wedges.
  • Cheese: Any melty Italian cheese works fine for this recipe, such as asiago, mozzarella, or fontina. You’ll also need parmigiano-reggiano.
  • Besciamella: This is a basic sauce from Italian cuisine, follow my recipe for homemade besciamella sauce or use store-bought if you prefer. You can also mix in some freshly grated parmigiano to add more flavor!

How to Make Finocchi Gratinati

Cut the stalks and fronds off the fennel then cut the bulbs into wedges. Using the tip of a knife carefully remove the core.

Tip: Don’t throw away the fronds, in Italy they’re usually repurposed to make soups and rice! You can even freeze them for later use.

Showing how to cut fennel bulbs.

Cook fennel in plenty of salted water for 15-20 minutes or until nicely soft. Place on a colander to drain and allow to slightly cool down.

Taking cooked fennel with a slotted spoon from the pot.

Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C and butter a 9×11-inch (22×28 cm) baking dish with plenty of melted butter.

Separate the fennel into small pieces and use half of them to make a single layer arranging them to cover the bottom of the dish. Spoon half of the besciamella sauce on top.

Adding besciamella sauce on top of a layer of cooked fennel in a baking dish.

Now, spread the creamy sauce to cover well the fennel using the back of a spoon, then add 1/3 of the melty cheese and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Besciamella sauce spread on fennel (finocchi), and topped with mozzarella and parmigiano.

Make one more layer with the remaining fennel and top with more cheese.

Making one more layer of fennel and besciamella sauce.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese on top is nicely bubbly and golden.

Finocchi gratinati freshly baked.

Recipe Notes & Variations

  • Make sure the fennel is nicely coated with the creamy sauce, if it’s easier for you, you can toss both in a bowl before adding to the baking dish.
  • You can add other vegetables to this finocchi gratinati dish and make it richer, think of mushrooms, diced zucchini, or peas. Slightly sauté them with oil or butter before combining with the fennel.
  • Sprinkle some Italian crumbs and drizzle with melted butter on top for a crispy touch.
  • Let the Italian fennel casserole rest for a few minutes after taking it out of the oven. This allows the flavors to meld, and it’ll be easier to serve.
  • This dish is also known as finocchi gratinati al forno, which translates to oven-baked fennel.
Taking a portion of the Italian fennel

Store & Reheat

Finocchi gratinati al forno makes the perfect prep meal. You can either store the baked casserole or also without baking.

In the fridge, this dish will last for up to 3-4 days, while in the freeze can last for up to 2-3 months.

I like to do a small trick my mother-in-law taught me (and a popular trick here in Italy by the way):

  • Make a large batch of this dish and assemble it in disposable foil casseroles. Don’t bake it.
  • Cover them with foil and plastic wrap and store in the freeze.
  • When ready to enjoy this dish, just pop the casserole in the oven covered with foil and bake for about 25 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
  • You don’t need to thaw it! And this will save you lots of time in the kitchen.

More Italian Sides

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Finocchi gratinati al forno recipe.

Finocchi Gratinati al Forno

4 -6 servings
This Italian fennel casserole is the perfect side dish for special occasions. It is called finocchi gratinati in Italy and is mostly served as a side for roasted meats.
prep 15 minutes
cook 30 minutes
total 45 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 9×11-inch (22×28 cm) baking dish

Ingredients 

  • 3 medium fennel bulbs
  • 2 ½ cups homemade besciamella sauce
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded (or substitute with mozzarella)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 4 Tablespoons parmigiano-reggiano cheese (grated)
  • salt (to taste)

For the bake

    Instructions
     

    • Cut the stalks and fronds off the fennel then cut the bulbs into wedges. Using the tip of a knife carefully remove the core.
    • Cook fennel in plenty of salted water for 15-20 minutes or until nicely soft. Place on a colander to drain and allow to slightly cool down.
    • Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C and generously butter a baking dish.
    • Arrange a layer of fennel on the bottom of your baking dish and top with half of the besciamella sauce.
    • Spread the sauce to cover well the fennel and add ⅓ of the asiago cheese, the sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
    • Make one more layer of fennel and top with the remaining besciamella sauce and cheese.
    • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden and bubbly.

    Notes

    • Don’t throw away the fronds, chop them and use them to sprinkle over the dish for presentation or save them and freeze for soups or salads.
    • You can add other vegetables to this finocchi gratinati dish and make it richer, think of mushrooms, diced zucchini, or peas. Slightly sauté them with oil or butter before combining with the fennel.
    Nutrition Information
    Serving: 1 serving as side | Calories: 240kcal
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    One Comment

    1. 5 stars
      Tried your finocchi gratinati recipe—absolutely delicious! The flavors were spot on, and it was a hit at dinner. Definitely adding this to my regular menu rotation. Thanks a bunch!