Finocchi Gratinati Pugliesi
Apulia is one of the Italian regions with the highest incidence of organic agriculture.
This week on our family farm, it is the time to harvest our Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare also Foeniculum officinale). It is a sweet aromatic herb of the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots and parsley that grows like a weed throughout the Mediterranean and flourishes on our family farm. It’s not surprising then that its bulb, seeds, pollen and fronds are key ingredients in some of the most delicious southern European cuisine. Also, fennel has amazing medicinal qualities that make it one of the most sought after herbs for those who are health conscious.
Fennel seeds are perfect blended with ground pork then stuffed into casings for sausages and salami but they are equally tasty in dolci like cookies, sweet breads and cakes. Having originated in Puglia—the ‘heel’ of Italy, home to over 60 million olive trees, some thousands of years old—the very best savory taralli taste of little more than good olive oil, lots of salt, and often seasoned with fennel seed or coarsely ground black pepper, the two most classic flavours.
Its liquorice-like flavour stands out and makes it a great complement to fish and hearty meats but it can be simply sliced, sprinkled with olive oil, lemon and salt for a salad. This can be an unctuous side dish or a starter in its own right, quick and simple to make, it is a perfect recipe from our family archive.
4 fennel bulbs
Terre Di San Vito’s Extra virgin olive oil
12 anchovy fillets (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
75g grated parmesan
75g fine breadcrumbs
Preparing the dish:
Trim the bases of the fennel bulbs and cut off the top stalks and fronds
Cut the bulbs lengthways through the base in thick slices 0.5-1cm thick.
Wash the fennel slices.
Heat a tablespoon of Terre Di San Vito’s extra virgin olive oil in a large, heavy based frying pan over medium-high heat.
(Alternatively, the fennel can be steamed until soft)
When the oil shimmers, lay the fennel wedges in the pan. They should sizzle.
When the slices are lightly browned on one side, flip them over with tongs and very lightly colour the other side until they are just cooked through (but not mushy).
In a bowl mix together the Parmesan and breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle a handful of the breadcrumb mixture over the base of your oven dish.
Lay half the fennel slices in an ovenproof gratin dish and then season with a pinch of salt or cut the anchovies in half lengthways and distribute them over the fennel in the dish, then cover with the remaining fennel slices.
Season with Terre Di San Vito’s extra virgin olive oil
Sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumb mixture over the top.
Bake in a pre-heated oven the oven at 180 ° for about 15 minutes or until the surface is golden.
This is an incredibly versatile dish. Serve as a side dish or as a main course.
Serve our Finocchi Gratinati Pugliesi with an ice-cold bottle of our fabulous Terre Di San Vito Apeneste white wine.