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.
Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says
Julia, your fennel slices could not be more beautiful — I always chop fennel into pieces for practicality reasons but your slices look like a musical instruments ready to break into song 🙂 seriously! I agree that placing these beauties over the creamy risotto brings a whole other level of elegance to this dish. I could easily imagine it gracing a Thanksgiving table. I am so accustomed to eating fennel raw that I too keep delaying the roasting process – I think you’ve convinced me! (and, if my husband has his way, I’ll be putting together another Thanksgiving meal — (we have already celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving) — that features this dish. So on behalf of all of us, thank you!
What a wonderful compliment, Kelly! I love your analogy about them looking like musical instruments. I wanted to keep them like that so that I could layer on a bit of parmesan more easily 🙂 And wow, two Thanksgiving dinners? That sounds exhausting yet fun!
Amy @ Thoroughly Nourished Life says
Julia! I had a very similar conversation with a friend of mine a few weeks ago too! I mentioned that I don’t really like raw fennel and she insisted that when you roast it, it completely changes. Now, here you are providing me the perfect recipe to try out roasted fennel. I can’t wait to make this one night when I’m seeking comfort, and there’s nothing like stirring a pot of risotto to help get rid of all the cares of the week. This sounds amazing!
Wow, that’s such a funny coincidence! Let me know if you end up trying it – I’d love to hear your thoughts, Amy!
Fennel and parmesan cheese are a match made in heaven. Adding roasted fennel to risotto is such a great idea and makes such a beautiful presentation. I can almost taste it just looking at the photos. Good luck with the Thanksgiving Day preparations! I find they key to a smooth day is to prepare many of the sides and soups in advance and create a time schedule the for the day of, so you know exactly what you have to do. 🙂
You’re right, Donna – fennel + parmesan really is the best! And great tips about prepping for Thanksgiving. Everything went very smoothly, largely due to my husband acting as my helpful sous chef!
traci | vanilla and bean says
We should have a fennel party, Julia! Seriously! I just discovered it last Fall and am in love! No doubt roasting or sautéing it mellows the anise flavor, which can be strong for some (my husband, ahem). I love how you’ve paired it with risotto, a Fall comfort food and oh so dreamy! I agree with Kelly… your slicing is perfection! I usually chop mine up just to disguise it (ahem), but I love the shape this beautiful veggie takes so perfectly roasted! Delicious my dear!
Haha, I love your “ahem” comments 🙂 I know how you feel. A lot of people aren’t fans of the raw fennel, so this is a great way to change their minds. I can’t imagine anyone disliking this! And yes, a fennel party would be fabulous!
I shall try this recipe this week, Julia! Your photos are beautiful and I won’t deny that I just love fennel’s funky shape, though that’s secondary to its flavor and texture. I can’t wait to taste it roasted and adding it to an already-beloved staple like risotto is brilliant!
I’m so happy to see you say that, Susan, since this one looks really good. It’ll be interesting to see how different fennel tastes when it’s roasted. I liked Julia’s choice of words describing risotto. It truly is cozy. There’s something about the continuous stirring, the warmth of the fire, and the savory smells that puts me in mind of slippers on a winter’s day.
It sounds like this was a hit for you two, and I’m so glad. I know you love risotto as much as I do, so it’s fun to have a different topping once in a while. I hope this becomes part of your rotation!
I’m so glad you enjoyed making this! It’s fun that I’ve been able to convert you to becoming a fennel fan. Paired with risotto, what’s not to love?
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen says
I love risotto, Julia and never thought of adding roasted fennel – but it makes a great taste contrast for the creamy risotto. I think a strong flavor will balance out the cheesy mellow flavor of risotto. Looking forward to trying this. And I’m with you on how did Thanksgiving sneak up so fast – I haven’t posted a single Thanksgiving recipe – but I still have next week if I hustle!
I’m glad you’re a risotto fan too, Geraldine! It has gotten so cold up here that I’m now craving cozy foods. This fits the bill perfectly. And yes, the holiday season is flying by…I can’t believe it’s already time to start thinking about Christmas!
Katie @ Whole Nourishment says
I love how roasted fennel mellows out too. Delicious pairing idea for the risotto Julia! And good luck with your Thanksgiving prep next week. Would love to hear how it goes. 😉
Hi Katie! Thanksgiving actually went very smoothly. I stuck with a lot of our family classics, but added in a few new fun recipes like a brioche stuffing. My husband was an extremely helpful sous-chef, so I’m very grateful 🙂 I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!
What a fabulous dish! We love roasted fennel but never would have paired it with risotto. Great idea!
Thank you! The roasted fennel is such a fun dish on its own, but I really enjoyed pairing it with the creamy risotto. I’m glad to hear you like the idea!
genevieve @ gratitude & greens says
Oh my gosh, I had caramelized fennel for the first time a few weeks ago and it was divine! I really wasn’t that big of a fan of raw fennel, but having it caramelized was a whole other story. This risotto sounds so comfy- makes me want to cuddle up with a bowl! xo
Isn’t caramelized fennel the best? I’m into caramelized anything right now – I’m such a sucker for the crispy edges. And yes, I don’t think there’s anything comfier than a luscious bowl of risotto on a cold day!
Petra @ CrumblesAndKale says
Oh god, this looks so amazing, your photos is incredible!
Thank you so much, Petra!
Christine // my natural kitchen says
Julia! I was on quite the hiatus and I’ve missed visiting other people’s spaces while being away from my own. I feel like I’ve missed a lot here. I hope you had the most lovely Thanksgiving and that you are enjoying this first week of December!
I’m a big fan of roasted fennel too. It’s the only way that my husband will actually eat fennel, and he adores risotto so I think I’ll make this for him soon! This looks so delicious! xo
Hi Christine! I’ve been a bit of a hiatus too, so I know exactly what you mean! I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season too 🙂 And I’m glad you’re a fan of roasted fennel – isn’t it so fun? I hope you and your husband enjoy the dish!