Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Bulbs with Tomato Sauce

20 Mar

Risotto Stuffed Fennel with Tomato Sauce

Fennel is another one of those vegetables, like cauliflower, that gets a bit of a bad name. People have preconceived ideas about it. They don’t like it. But many have never tried it cooked. I may have been one of those narrow-minded people.

Fennel Plants

Running past this field full of feathery fennel fronds floating in the breeze in front of an 11th Century Moorish watchtower while Rufus begs me to turn around and run back because of the pack of very tiny dogs who bark (or actually yap) at his heels as we pass, made me want to research this undervalued vegetable a little more deeply.

And by research I mean, look at recipes. On Pinterest mainly. Not that I’m addicted or anything but that is where I store all of the recipes I like the look of and want to make soon.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Fennel Bulb

The idea for this recipe didn’t come from Pinterest though. It came from Jim, The Washer Up’s dad. It’s not his recipe. I don’t think he stretches much farther than a ham sandwich in his own particular kitchen, but he does send me everything food related cut out from the British press, neatly folded in a brown envelope every couple of weeks. This is always a very welcome distraction, for me, from any cleaning that might need doing.

It was in one of those envelopes that I found out about baking and stuffing fennel.

Fennel Stock & Bulbs

Because I bought four whole fennel (complete with long feathery fronds still attached)  from the farmer’s market on Sunday, I decided I wouldn’t waste all of that aniseedy greenery and I made a stock out of them for the risotto. This isn’t essential but if you have them, you may as well if you have the time.

Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel

In the original recipe they stuffed the fennel with wild rice. I decided to make a risotto using brown rice and the mushrooms I had in my fridge and use that to stuff them instead.

I have finally worked out how to make risotto from brown rice that actually looks and tastes like risotto. You have to part cook the rice first so it is nearly done. Then you add it to the risotto and continue as you would with uncooked risotto rice. It’ so much softer and creamier. I have to give credit to The Washer Up for this tip, he has been telling me to do it for ages.

And he was right. There I said it.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel

To make the fennel stock I cut the stalks and fronds off of the fennel bulbs and chopped them up roughly. I put them in  a large pot with 3 or 4 bay leaves, 15 whole peppercorns and a good teaspoon of salt. Bring this to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for about an hour. Taste and add more salt if necessary . Then drain and store in the fridge or freezer in 500 ml or 1 litre pots.

You can just use a normal vegetable stock if you don’t have the fronds, time or inclination.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Recipe

Serves  4, vegetarian. Adapted from

  • 300 ml brown rice
  • 600 ml fennel stock or water

Put the rice and stock/water in a pan. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the rice is nearly cooked. Drain if necessary. Rinse under cold water if not using straight away to stop the cooking and set aside.

  • 4  fennel bulbs
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • white wine (or cava)

Preheat oven to 180C. Cut about 2 cm off of the base of each bulb so it can stand up. Then cut another inch or so off of the tops. Remove any damaged/bruised outer layers. Using a teaspoon, hollow out the fennel bulbs as best you can (see picture above) reserving the fennel flesh for the risotto.

Stand the hollowed out fennel bulbs on a large sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt & pepper. Start to bring the edges of the foil up and around the fennel then carefully pour in about 4 Tbsp white wine. Seal the foil package completely around the fennel but make sure that they are still standing. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until nicely softened.

  • reserved fennel flesh from above, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves, garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 lemon, zested 
  • about 250 g mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • a splosh of white wine
  • up to 1 litre vegetable/fennel stock
  • 30 g grated manchego/parmesan
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • a handful of manchego/parmesan
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a handful of pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • tomato pasta sauce/marinara sauce

Put the stock in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, chopped fennel and a pinch of salt and cook for about 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add the garlic, thyme, chilli flakes, half of the lemon zest and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, cook for three minutes until softened then add the part cooked rice. Add a good splosh of white wine and cook until evaporated. Season well with salt & black pepper then start adding the hot stock a ladleful at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful, stirring and swirling occasionally. Keep going until you have used all the stock and the rice is cooked. The risotto should be soft and quite liquidy.

Add a squeeze of lemon, a little of the chopped parsley and stir in the 30 gr grated manchego/parmesan. Turn off the heat, put a lid on and leave for 3-5 minutes. Heat up your tomato sauce.

If your fennel bulbs are done remove them from the oven and put the grill/broiler on high.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, grated manchego/parmesan, rest of the lemon zest, some pine nuts & some chopped parsley in a small bowl.

Check the risotto for seasoning add more salt if necessary. Spoon some risotto into each fennel bulb right to the top and a little bit more, sprinkle over the breadcrumb mix and put them under the grill for a minute or two until browned.

To serve: Cover the base of each dish with a shallow pool of risotto and place the stuffed fennel in the middle. Spoon some of the tomato sauce on and around the dish and garnish with some of the breadcrumb mix if you have any left, some chopped parsley or fennel fronds.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel & Tomato Sauce

Buen Provecho!!


14 Responses to “Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Bulbs with Tomato Sauce”

  1. Andora McMillan March 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Your recipes are always gorgeous AND they sound delicious just reading them! Thank you so much for your work. I (and my family, by default) am slowly going vegetarian. I knew it could delicious and desirable and your ideas completely feed my philosophy that healthy never has to be boring or staid. Thanks again! Andora McMillan of North Carolina

  2. acrusteaten March 20, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    I love fennel and this looks fabulous. It definitely gets a bad rap, but it is amazing. Keep up the good work!

  3. Conor Bofin March 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    I love fennel with fish. I do appreciate that you don’t go there. This is really creative and looks very tasty indeed.

  4. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide March 21, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    That dish is a thing of beauty. (And great taste no doubt.)

  5. Three Well Beings March 21, 2013 at 1:53 am #

    It won’t be long before fennel will start appearing in my weekly farm produce box. I do like it, but I never quite know what to do with it beyond just roasting it, so this would be a treat. I love risotto, and you’ve really created something special here. Your photography is just amazing, Natalie. I can almost taste this right through the photos! 🙂

  6. musingmar March 21, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    I’m very fond of fennel but it never occurred to me to stuff it like this. What a great idea! And, fennel stock! Why have I never thought of that? It would be wonderful in a spring vegetable soup… Now my mind is racing. I know what I’ll be buying at the market soon!

  7. Eha March 21, 2013 at 4:44 am #

    THank you so much! I love fennel but usually in a salad or stirfried or lightly sauteed. This is such a fresh and new innovation for me and I am going to have such fun trying this out for me and a few friends dropping in about Easter time!!

  8. Tammy March 21, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Oh goddess! This just wreaks for spring. So beautiful.

  9. frugalfeeding March 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    What a truly stunning way to serve fennel – I’m a little gob smacked! I love a good mushroom risotto too!

  10. Chica Andaluza March 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I adore fennel and love the sound of this. Did you know (you probably do!) that the male fennel bulbs are the rounder fatter ones and the female are the slimmer flatter ones and that (raw) the male bulbs are sweeter?

    • tony ward March 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      @Chica Andaluz…the fennel family are a lot like us Humans then !! tee hee. x

      • tony ward March 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

        This is superb guapa, one of your finest I think, both the food and the photography. besitos. xxxx

      • Chica Andaluza March 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

        I’m a little more rounded alas!

  11. peasepudding March 26, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    Another of my faves…fennel. I have a few wayward bulbs in the garden that are 3 foot tall and gone a bit to seed but i could perhaps stuff them. The risotto does look very creamy.

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