Cauliflower and Fennel Gratin with Pancetta

March 9, 2012  •  Vegetables

I was perusing my site the other day, trying to figure out something new to make and blog about. I also had a house full of visitors, including my very adorable little great-niece Bella, and needed a vegetable for a family dinner. Can you believe I didn’t have a single cauliflower recipe on the site? I don’t have anything against cauliflower – I guess it just seems a little boring on its own.Fortunately I had a fennel bulb in the refrigerator, and immediately felt a gratin would be special. I also have my homemade pancetta in the freezer, silently calling to me to be used every time I open that door. Now that’s how you turn boring into beautiful in my kitchen!The gratin is a simple thing – some blanched cauliflower, sliced fennel, a light Bechamel sauce (I made mine with skim milk), some fried pancetta, and a panko breadcrumb topping that I toasted in the pancetta drippings (whatever you do, don’t skip this part!). You can make this ahead and just bake it right before serving. Easy, right?

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cauliflower and Fennel Gratin with Pancetta
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Vegetable, Side Dish
Serves: 6
  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 large fennel, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced (or thick sliced bacon)
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups milk (any variety)
  • 2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Blanch cauliflower in boiling water until very al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, combine with fennel in a large bowl, and set aside. Cook panetta until very crispy; remove with a slotted spoon and add to the vegetables. Add breadcrumbs to the rendered pancetta fat and toast for a few minutes; set aside. Combine butter and flour in a saucepan, melt, and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Slowly whisk in the milk and stir until thickened. Stir in cheese just until melted, then season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Pour sauce over the vegetables and pancetta and stir to combine. Pour into a greased 8x8 inch oven safe baking pan. Top with toasted breadcrumbs and bake at 375 degrees until bubbly and brown on the top, about 40 minutes.
Wanting a vegetarian dish instead? Simply leave out the pancetta and toast the breadcrumbs in olive oil instead.



6 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Kirsten@ My Kitchen in the Rockies says:

    I always have cauliflower in my fridge. It tastes the best roasted with some olive oil or coconut oil and salt/ pepper in the oven. Together with fennel and some fresh Parmesan on top it is a dream come true. Even my kids like it and they are not the big cauliflower fans.
    I love your preparation, too. Who could resist anything with pancetta and bechamel sauce.

  2. Connie Gordon says:

    That looks wonderful. I have all the ingredients and will make this one for dinner tonight.

  3. Simply Tia says:

    I love the look and sound of this!!! I’ve never had fennel (or made something with fennel) but I can just imagine its wonderful flavor by just looking at this wonderful dish!

  4. Shannon says:

    I made this tonight and we really liked it. I was afraid it might be too rich, but it was not at all. Thank you for the recipe.

    • Michele says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Shannon! You can always keep the richness down in anything with a white sauce by making it from skim milk or 2% instead of whole milk, half and half, or cream. And since most of the fat is rendered out of the pancetta, it doesn’t end up making it really fatty.

  5. Karen (Back Road Journal) says:

    I love having another way to prepare cauliflower. I know my husband will really enjoy your recipe.

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