Marta’s Mum’s Fennel

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Limoncello and Linen Water

Limoncello and Linen Water

By Tessa Kiros

Published 2012

  • About

This is from my friend Maria’s mother. It’s a wonderful way with fennel. She says that it is important to cook it for a long time so the fennel is given time to dry to get it beyond the waterlogged aspect it can sometimes have. I use an oval ceramic dish to make these in, where the fennel fits compactly in a single layer. It is lovely with fish and meat, particularly pork.


  • 3 fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 400 g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4 basil leaves
  • about 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan


Quarter the fennel bulbs from the top down, making sure the pieces stay hinged together. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the fennel for 10 minutes or so, until softened but not soggy and overdone. Test with a fork to see that it is tender. Drain in a colander and pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4)

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil with 1 garlic clove in a small pot until it smells good. Add the tomatoes with some salt and pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until it is a sauce. Tear in the basil just towards the end so it will perfume the tomato. Remove from the heat.

Use a large non-stick frying pan for the fennel. Put the flour in a bowl and pat it onto the fennel, coating it on all sides. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Add the fennel, in one layer, and the other garlic clove. Saute the fennel until golden and firm on all sides. If the garlic browns, remove it as it will have done its job.

Dollop about half the tomato sauce here and there on the bottom of the oven dish that you’ll bake the fennel in. Arrange the fennel in so it all fits compactly. If some of the pieces are very big, halve them. Dollop the rest of the tomato sauce on top. Scatter the breadcrumbs and parmesan over and bake for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden and crusty in places. Serve warm. Also lovely at room temperature.