I love when I discover a new way to cook something that completely alters its taste. If you’ve had both raw and roasted fennel before, you’ll know exactly what I mean. While raw fennel has a strong anise flavor (which I happen to enjoy, but understand it isn’t for everyone), it becomes much more mellow and subtly sweet when roasted. A friend of mine has been telling me for ages that I need to try it, but for some reason I never got around to it until a few weeks ago. I was hooked after one bite.
The fennel makes a lovely side dish on its own, especially with a sprinkling of parmesan that turns beautifully golden in the oven. In fact, it would be perfect addition to any holiday menu. But if you’re looking for a way to make it the centerpiece of a meal, serve it on top of some creamy, cozy risotto. The sweet, caramelized fennel is the perfect accompaniment to the risotto, and elevates it into more of a special meal. And although it looks like there is more effort and time involved, it couldn’t be a simpler addition: after quickly slicing up the fennel, it roasts away while you’re stirring the risotto on the stove top.
Think of this risotto recipe as a versatile blueprint; I purposely left the seasoning quite simple so that you could get creative with other pairings. Mushrooms are a classic addition to risotto, as are peas in the springtime. Once you have a great risotto recipe in your back pocket, you’re a big step closer to a delicious dinner (especially since you only need basic pantry items to make it).
On another note: how is Thanksgiving next week?! Maybe it’s because there isn’t much indication of a change in seasons here, but this holiday season is really sneaking up on me. In addition to this roasted fennel, check out my other Thanksgiving recipes here and here. This is my first time taking the lead on Thanksgiving preparations, and I’ll definitely be relying on quick and easy recipes like these!
- For the roasted fennel:
- 2 fennel bulbs
- About 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated or shaved parmesan
- Salt and pepper
- For the risotto:
- 4 cups hot vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1.5 cups arborio (risotto) rice
- ½ cup white wine or sherry
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup toasted walnut halves
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Prepare the fennel first. Cut off the long stems and the very bottom of the bulb. Then cut ½ inch thick slices of fennel vertically (this keeps the core intact). Place the fennel slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle each slice with parmesan cheese. Lightly season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast the fennel for 35-40 minutes, or until tender.
- Once the fennel is roasting, begin the risotto. In a medium saucepan, bring vegetable stock to a boil and then reduce heat to medium.
- Add the olive oil and butter to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for about three minutes; add garlic and cook about one minute longer.
- Add the arborio rice, stirring until it is coated in the olive oil and butter.
- Add the white wine and stir until absorbed.
- Add a ladle (about ½ cup) of the vegetable stock to the risotto, stirring continuously until the stock is absorbed. Add the next ladle of stock, repeating the process until all of the stock has been added.
- Once all of the stock is absorbed (about 18-20 minutes), stir in the parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Dish the risotto onto individual plates and place 3-4 pieces of the roasted fennel on top. Sprinkle on some toasted walnuts and serve immediately.