This Potato and Fennel Gratin is based off a recipe I (Nicole) learned in Italy this past April. Unfortunately I lost the actual recipe, because I am not organized at all; however, I wracked my brain to remember the basics, and we created a delicious side dish every cheese aficionado will love.
The original recipe is made with artichokes, but we are unable to get the specific variety required here. So we went with fennel, which is both in season and available in major grocery stores in the province. Not to mention it’s delicious when paired with potatoes and cheese.
This potato and fennel gratin is extra comforting on crisp fall days, or damp and dark ones like we’ve been getting lately. The fennel gives it a bit more of a sweet and delicate flavour that sets it apart from a traditional potato au gratin. This Italian-style gratin uses fresh mozzarella and parmigiano reggianno, rather than the more traditional cheddar we would normally use in Newfoundland. And no matter the origin, we all know that potatoes and cheese are a match made in heaven. When we finished photographing this, we both dove in immediately, then went back for seconds.
Let us know if you give it a try! We’d love to hear from you to see if you enjoy our creations:)
Potato and Fennel Gratin
A creamy, italian inspired spin on the classic potato gratin.
- 3 large potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced (instructions on how in recipe)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 500g fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 1/2 cups parmigiano-reggiano, grated
- 3 tbsp flour
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (bonus points for freshly grated)
- 2 tbsp fresh fennel fronds or parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced fennel (see note on how to cut fennel) to the heated pan and cook until soft, but not browned adding a sprinkle of salt during cooking. Remove from heat while you prepare remaining ingredients.
Make your bechamel. Heat the butter and flour over medium heat in a pot, cooking for 1 minute, then stirring in your nutmeg. Slowly start whisking in your milk, halting every now and then to whisk out any clumps. Once all milk is added, cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
In two cake pans or a large rectangular dish (9X13), begin layering your ingredients. Add a scoop of bechamel to the bottom of the dish, then a layer of potatoes, overlapping the edges slightly. Next add a layer of cooked fennel, a spoonful of bechamel, and a layer of fresh mozzarella. Repeat layering one more time, ending with the fresh mozzarella, and topping with parmigiano-reggiano. Bake in oven at 350F for approximately 1 hour, covering with foil if the cheese is browning too much.
To prepare your fennel, cut off the leafy tops and stalks, and thinly slice off the root. Next, stand the bulb up (root side on cutting board), and slice in half crosswise, between where two of the stalks were. You will see a triangular core, cut that out with a pairing knife, then turn the cut side down, and slice thinly.