Cozy Up to Fennel Gratin Covered in a Blanket of Parmesan

The sweet, anise-like flavor of fennel mellows as it bakes in this rich and creamy gratin.

Fennel Buried in Cream

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 30 mins
6 servings

Most vegetables are better when submerged in garlicky cream sauce and covered in a blanket of Parmesan, and fennel is no exception, says cookbook author Andy Baraghani. In this fennel gratin, the bulbs are perfectly tender and completely smothered in a luscious sauce. It’s a decadent side dish that feels right at home on a holiday table. The option to bake it in advance comes in clutch when oven space is at a premium.

This recipe is adapted from Baraghani’s cookbook The Cook You Want To Be

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between fennel and anise?

Fennel bulbs are often mislabeled as “anise,” but they are actually distinct. While both fennel and anise have a mellow, sweet, black licorice-like flavor, fennel is cultivated for its bulbs and seeds and anise is primarily grown for its seeds only. For this reason, any bulbs with the label “anise” in North American grocery stores are likely fennel.

Notes from the Food & Wine Test Kitchen

Keep a close eye on this gratin once it’s under the broiler as it can go from nicely browned to burnt in just a few seconds.  

If you don’t like fennel, our testers suggest that you could use another vegetable like leeks,  cauliflower florets, or thinly sliced root veggies. Cook times will vary depending on the vegetable.

Make ahead

The gratin can be prepared through step 3 up to a day in advance. Let it cool completely, cover, and refrigerate. Before baking, let the gratin come to room temperature for about 1 hour then proceed with step 4 as directed.


  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 2 shallots, quartered lengthwise

  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for garnish

  • 3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1-inch-thick wedges

  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 2/3 cup)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with one rack in center position and one rack positioned about 4 inches from the heat. Bring cream, shallots, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring often, until shallots and garlic are very soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool in pan 10 minutes.

  2. Transfer cream mixture to a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Process until cream mixture is completely smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.

  3. Arrange fennel wedges, slightly overlapping, in a large cast-iron skillet or broiler-safe 2-quart baking dish. Pour cream mixture evenly over fennel. Roast on center rack in preheated oven until fennel is tender and sauce is bubbling, 40 to 50 minutes.

  4. Remove skillet from oven, and increase oven temperature to broil. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over fennel. Broil on upper rack until top is browned, 1 to 4 minutes. Garnish with additional thyme leaves and black pepper. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Originally appeared in Food & Wine magazine, November 2023

Related Articles