Baked Fennel in Pomodoro Sauce and Cheese

1 large fennel bulb, remove stalks and greens
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 cups tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded Fontina or Gruyere cheese

1. Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Trim the fennel tops, then cut into wedges. Boil for 6-8 minutes or until tender. Drain well. When cool, arrange in an ovenproof baking dish.

2. Add the olive oil to a hot sauté pan and cook on medium heat the carrot, celery, and shallot until barely golden. Add the thyme, red pepper flakes, tomato sauce, salt and pepper and cook about 3-5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

3. Cover the fennel with the sauce and top with the cheeses.  Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until the cheese has melted and the top is golden.

You either love fennel or you could find it taste a bit  like licorice.  When fennel is baked or fried it takes on a completely different flavor.  This recipe calls for partly boiled fennel and then it is baked in a tomato sauce with a pinch of hot peppers and a good cheese. It taste better than eggplant parmesan. I made this dish in a cooking class, my students were surprised how sweet and delicious it tasted.  Give it a try, let me know what you think!

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