serves: 6 servings
This gratin of fennel wedges and strips of prosciutto drizzled with butter and topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano, then baked until golden, is rich, aromatic, and irresistible. It's also quite convenient, since you can set up the baking dish hours ahead, keep it refrigerated, then pop it into the oven just before dinner. You can you make this without prosciutto, and it will be delicious, But it's even better with prosciutto. Grana Padano cheese can also be used instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano giving it a milkier taste, and of course bacon can be substituted for the prosciutto. But if you want to eat it as the Romans do then you should follow this recipe. Keep in mind that the cooking of prosciutto and cheese concentrates the saltiness but the sweetness of the fennel brings it all into balance. Serve hot for best results.
2½ pounds fennel, trimmed and cut in wedges
⅓ cup butter, melted
3 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Bring about 4 quarts of water to the boil in a large pot. Drop in the fennel wedges and cook them at a gentle boil for 10 to 15 minutes, just until you can pierce them easily with a sharp knife tip. Lift out the wedges and drain well.
Cut the prosciutto slices crosswise into strips, about 1/4-inch wide.
Set a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with a spoon or 2 of the melted butter. Lay the fennel wedges in one layer, filling the dish, and scatter the prosciutto strips over and in between the wedges. Drizzle the remaining butter all over. Finally, sprinkle over the grated cheese, covering the whole dish evenly. Bake the dish for 25 minutes or until the top is crusty and golden and the edges of the prosciutto and fennel are also colored and crisp.