Italian Fennel Bake (finocchi gratinati)
A scrumptiously creamy italian fennel bake with tons of flavour thanks to the bechamel sauce savoured with shallots and nutmeg. To complete, the crunchy topping with walnuts is to die for!
For the bechamel sauce
(⅓ cup) flour
(2 cups) milk
(4 tbsp) butter
(1 cup) vegetable stock
salt & pepper
For the bake
(2 lb) fennels, cleaned and cut into wedges
(1 cup) Asiago cheese , shredded
(½ cup) parmigiano cheese, grated
For the topping
(¼ cup) italian breadcrumbs
(1 tbsp) butter
COOK THE FENNEL
Cut the stalks and fronds off the fennel then cut the bulbs into wedges. Using the tip of a knife discard carefully the core.
Place a large pot with water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt then the fennel. Boil for about 10 minutes or until the fennel bulbs are tender but not mushy.
MAKE THE TOPPING
In a small bowl put the breadcrumbs, parmigiano cheese, chopped walnuts and melted butter. Mix until combined and set aside.
MAKE THE BESCIAMELLA SAUCE
In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and stir until they start to brown. Melt butter in and then add the flour stirring vigorously until brown.
Pour in the milk, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk until combined. Add the stock and keep whisking until the sauce thickens (see the video).
Turn off heat then add the cheeses, stir to combine and adjust with salt and pepper. Add the fennel and mix to coat.
ASSEMBLE AND BAKE
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350F).
Place the fennel mixture into a casserole dish and gently press a bit to fill well. Sprinkle with the topping mixture and bake for about 25 minutes or until bubbling and the topping starts to brown.
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