5 Fennel recipes: From sausage to salad

If you want to immerse yourself in authentic Italian cuisine at home, you need to use fennel. This is one of the most classic ingredients used in Italy, and it’s frequently found throughout Mediterranean cuisine.

Known as “finocchio” in Italian, fennel can be used in a wide variety of side dishes and can be eaten raw or cooked. Its flavor is sometimes compared to anise or a mild licorice, which makes it an interesting accent in a meal’s overall flavor profile. It is more herbaceous when left raw, or the licorice flavor can be cooked to make it a bit sweeter.

Looking for some fennel inspiration? Try out some of these fennel recipes inspired by Italian cooking.

Italian Fennel Sausage with Pepper Flakes

Fennel sausage is a staple in many Italian households. In fact, it’s the fennel that imparts that distinct “Italian” flavor in the Italian sausage you probably already know and love. It’s easy to make and can serve as the basis for so many other amazing dishes or enjoyed as sausage patties. Try incorporating the ground sausage into your homemade lasagna or pasta sauces. Use it as a pizza topping or to make a frittata. This recipe uses the seeds of the fennel, which aren’t as strongly flavored as raw fennel, so it doesn’t overpower the sausage itself.


  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 ½ tsp ground fennel seed
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil


  1. Mix the fennel seed, garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl.
  2. Place the ground pork in a larger bowl and add the mixture from the small bowl.
  3. Mix the pork until the seasonings are fully incorporated throughout.
  4. Preheat a pan over medium heat.
  5. Add the oil to the pan and sauté the sausage until it is cooked through and browned, about 6-8 minutes.

Note: If you want to save the fennel sausage for later, you can keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to two days, or freeze it until ready to use.

Roasted Fennel with Tomatoes

This recipe features a lovely combination of Italian ingredients with sliced fennel and juicy tomatoes. It’s wonderful as a side to a meal and looks gorgeous on a table when served family-style. It can also be used to top crostini for a hearty appetizer.


  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Thinly slice the bulbs of the fennel and chop up some of the fronds.
  3. Peel the cloves of garlic.
  4. Combine the garlic with the fennel and fronds, lemon, olive oil, salt, and sugar on a baking sheet.
  5. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Add the grape tomatoes to the baking sheet and roast for an additional 5-10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven when the tomatoes burst. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fennel Salad with Lemon

A crisp fennel salad offers an especially easy way to prepare this Italian ingredient. It’s delicious on its own, or it can be served as a summery complement to grilled meat, fish, or pasta. It’s also great for preparing ahead of time when you’re planning to entertain guests. The following recipe is intended to be served as a side for two people, and can easily be scaled up for larger groups.



  1. Thinly slice the fennel bulb and chop the fennel fronds.
  2. Combine the sliced fennel with olive oil and the juice and zest of the lemon, then toss.
  3. Sprinkle the chopped fennel fronds over the salad.
  4. Season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Wait at least 15 minutes to serve, allowing time for the fennel to slightly soften.
  6. If desired, consider additional toppings such as grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, toasted pine nuts, fresh parsley, chopped basil, green olives, or capers.

Fennel and Kale Pasta

Like any good Italian ingredient, fennel tastes delicious when included in a pasta dish. This one is very simple to prepare but is incredibly satisfying. To amp up the fennel flavor, consider incorporating some cooked fennel sausage into the dish.


  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • ½ lb fusilli
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Parmigiano Reggiano to taste


  1. Slice the fennel thinly and chop up some of the fronds.
  2. De-stem and chop the kale into bitesize pieces.
  3. Mince the garlic cloves.
  4. Preheat a pan over medium heat and add the fennel slices, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt.
  5. Stir occasionally and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Add the kale and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.
  7. Add the broth, cover the pan, and bring to a simmer.
  8. Add the fusilli and cook for 12 to 15 minutes until the pasta is tender, adding more broth or water if needed.
  9. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds.
  10. Top with grated cheese to taste when serving.

Caramelized Fennel and Bacon Pizza

Fennel can make a surprisingly tasty pizza topping, especially with this simple recipe. If you prefer, you can make your own pizza crust dough from scratch, but using a premade crust is handy for quick weeknight dinners.


  • Premade pizza dough
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon
  • ½ small red onion
  • 2 cups smoked gouda
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil


  1. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp.
  2. Slice the fennel thinly and chop up some of the fronds.
  3. Add the sliced fennel to the pan with leftover bacon grease.
  4. Cook the fennel over medium heat and sprinkle with salt to taste. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally for 1 hour to caramelize the fennel.
  5. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
  6. Slice onion very thinly.
  7. Roll out the pizza dough and place on a baking sheet or pizza stone.
  8. Brush the dough with some olive oil, then top with caramelized fennel, bacon, onion, and cheeses. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly.
  10. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds and serve.