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Roasting Fennel in a Wood-fired Oven

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I didn’t fully understand the fascination with this Italian favorite until I tried roasting fennel in a wood-burning oven. Roasting fennel is now one of my favorite ways of preparing it, either alone or in combination with carrots, a related veggie.

Fennel is considered a good supporting vegetable since it merges well with tomatoes, carrots, cabbage and oranges. Because it merges well with other foods and enhances their flavor, chefs often use fennel in commercial cooking. It’s less familiar in the home repertoire because we wonder what to do with fennel. Once you taste the slightly sweet flavor developed by roasting fennel and experience the ease of preparing it in a wood-fired (or regular) oven, fennel will become a recurring item in home cooking, too.

Fennel is related to carrots, celery, parsnips, dill, parsley, cumin and anise (Apiaceous family of vegetables). Fennel has white bulb, green stalks and soft fronds—all edible—and fennel seeds are used in making Italian sausage. As a side note, fennel is a food source for the beautiful black swallowtail butterfly.

High temperature roasting yields a beautiful carmelization of the fennel’s natural sugar and browns its vegetable proteins. The high temperatures obtainable in a wood-fired oven, allow me to quickly get a good carmelization on the exterior of thick fennel wedges and still maintain a satisfying interior crunch.

Fennel is easy to prepare.

Prepare for roasting fennel in a wood-burning oven.

Slice bulb into rings or wedges for roasting fennel.

Thin slices of bulb certainly bring pop to citrus and slaw, and snips of frond hint at licorice, but I still prefer the mildly sweet taste created by roasting fennel.

Roasting fennel in wood-burning oven for beautiful texture and flavor

Simple roasted fennel with Parmesan

Simple roasted fennel with Parmesan

  • Place wedges or slices of fennel in a pan suited to high temperatures.
  • Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • When the fennel begins to brown at the edges, remove from oven.
  • Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and give it another minute in the oven.


Roasting fennel and carrots in a wood-burning oven for maximum flavor.

Roasted together in high heat, fennel and carrots make a beautiful side.

Roasted fennel with carrots

  • Cut fennel into wedges or rings.
  • Cut carrots slightly smaller than fennel so they will cook evenly.
  • Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve as is, or drizzle with a light citrus flavored dressing.


When he’s grilling, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain features meat—all kinds of it. He will make room on the grill for a few vegetables. “I’ll grill asparagus sometimes. Fennel maybe. Belgian endive. Those all grill really well.” (Men’s Health, Guy Gourmet, “Grill Like Anthony Bourdain,” Kristy Alpert)

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