Baked Fennel Sfincione

“Finocchio a Sfincione”

 

“Finocchi a Sfinciuni”

 

This is a very convenient side dish that can be prepared ahead of time and baked at the last moment. An deal companion to a steak or a polpettone, the meat loaf.

Serves 5

Ingredients:

  • 5 fennels
  • 1 can 28 oz. imported Italian peeled tomato roughly diced
  • 2 medium size onions, thickly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • ¼ cup chopped basil
  • salt, pepper and oregano to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of grated caciocavallo or Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 oz. caciocavallo fresco or provola cheese diced very small
  • 3 tablespoon of bread crumbs
  • salt, pepper and oregano to taste

 

Preparation

The Fennel
To prepare fennels for cooking, trim, cut base, discard rough outer leaves and stalks. Eliminate any wilted or bruised part.
Set on the side the inside tender green leaves attached in the center of the white bulbous part, to be used as garnish or to flavor other recipes.
Cut each fennel vertically into ¼ inch slices and wash carefully.

The Fennels
Over a high heat, set a 6 quart sauce pot with 4 quarts of water. When water begins to boil, place the fennel in it, add salt to taste and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Fennels should be al dente, if they are too hard extend cooking time.
Using a slotted spoon place the fennel to drain in a colander and set on the side.

The Sauce
In a 6 quart saucepan combine the sliced onions with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and place over a medium heat. When the onion turns light golden in color, remove half of the sautéed onions and set on the side; add to saucepan the tomato, the basil, salt and pepper to taste. Increase to a high heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
When it returns to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Cut the anchovies in small pieces, place in a dish and set aside. 

The Assembly
Grease a 9 inch round baking dish and coat with breadcrumbs.
Pour a ladle of sauce in the baking dish and place the fennels in layers, covering each layer with a few tablespoons of tomato sauce, some sautéed onions, a few pieces of anchovies, a few pieces of diced cheese, a sprinkle of cheese and bread crumbs, some basil and continue until all ingredients are finished. Sprinkle some oregano and bread crumbs. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top.
Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

 

The Serving 
Garnish with some of the fennel’s tender green leaves and serve hot or at room temperature.