This wintry fennel parmigiana is “in bianco,” as they say in Italy—a “white,” tomato-less version with a creamy, custard-like filling of egg, milk, and Parmigiano Reggiano with a crisp, golden top of more cheese and breadcrumbs. Satisfying enough to serve as a vegetarian main or in smaller portions as a side dish, this is a good one to make ahead for the holidays.
If you want to prepare this in advance, you can easily do the first several steps up until pouring over the egg mixture. When you’re ready to bake, just pour the egg mixture over the prepared dish, add Parm/breadcrumb topping, and bake! —Emiko
Slice off the tough base of the fennel bulb and any of the stems (if there are any green fronds, keep them for topping with, chopped roughly), then, turning the fennel onto its side, cut into thick 1/3-inch slices.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and place the fennel slices in the pot. When it comes back to a boil, continue cooking 5 to 10 more minutes or until a fork is easily inserted into the fennel. Drain.
In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk and half of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Whisk together with some freshly ground pepper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the rest of the Parmigiano Reggiano with the breadcrumbs. Set aside.
Grease a baking dish generously with olive oil. Place a layer of fennel, top with half of the mozzarella, distributed evenly. Follow with another layer of fennel and the rest of the mozzarella. Pour over the egg mixture then top evenly with the breadcrumb mixture, any fennel fronds (if you saved them) and drizzle over the olive oil.
Bake, uncovered, until golden and bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. I highly recommend letting it sit for about 10 minutes (uncovered, so you preserve the crunchy topping) to settle before serving.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.