Fennel is not enjoyed as much in the United States as it is in Italy, perhaps because of the unfamiliarity of preparing it. Fennel is as easy to clean as an onion, and once it is baked it is as mellow as sweet potatoes, but the extra bonus is the licorice taste that it delivers. In this recipe, coupled with sage and Italian Fontina cheese, it is luscious. Raw fennel eaten at the end of a meal is used often in southern Italy as a digestive.
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pot
- 3 bulbs fennel, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
- 8 ounces grated Italian Fontina
- ½ cup grated Grana Padano
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 large fresh sage leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Halve and core the fennel, and slice it ½ inch thick. Add the slices of fennel to the boiling water, and blanch until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and rinse.
In a medium bowl, toss together the Fontina and grated Grana Padano. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread in the blanched fennel, and season with the salt. Scatter the chopped sage over the top, and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes.