Sides

Baked Cauliflower Cheese And Fennel

The best baked cauliflower cheese made with slices of fennel and baked in an absolutely delicious cheese sauce. It’s topped with, wait for it…more cheese and comes out of the oven bubbling, golden and smelling so delicious it’s hard to wait before getting stuck in!

Baked cauliflower cheese, the ultimate comfort food side dish.

An overhead shot of baked cauliflower cheese in a oval baking dish on a wooden surface

Cauliflower cheese is a side dish I grew up with as part of a Sunday roast which consisted of either roast beef or roast chicken and a whole array of veggie side dishes. My Mum would pull out all the stops (and still does) but the thing we all loved the most was the cheesy, golden, baked cauliflower cheese.

It’s just pure comfort food and pretty much goes with any main course (almost) I mean, it’s even great on its own. If someone plonked a plate of baked cauliflower cheese down in front of me for dinner and nothing else well, I would not complain one bit.

I added a twist to this recipe by adding fennel and believe it or not baked cauliflower and fennel gratin is a delicious side dish from the North of Italy. They love their cheese up there and maybe I’ve gone a little overboard compared to the Italians but that’s just me.

What Can I Add To Baked Cauliflower Cheese?

  • Bacon
  • Spring onions
  • Leeks
  • Broccoli (baked cauliflower and broccoli cheese, so good!)
  • Different cheeses such as blue cheese (because why not?)
  • You can also top it with breadcrumbs

How To Make Baked Cauliflower Cheese With Fennel – Step By Step

First, cut the green tops off the fennel (keep the fronds for garnish) cut it into thick slices and break the cauliflower into small florets. You’ll need to cut the stalk off the cauliflower first then it’s easy to break and cut apart (photo 1).

Boil the fennel and cauliflower in a large pot of salted boiling water for 3 minutes then drain and set aside.

To make the cheese sauce, add the butter to a saucepan over a medium heat, once melted add the flour and stir to a thick paste. Let it cook for 1 minute whilst stirring (this cooks out the floury taste) (photo 2).

Next, add 1 cup (250ml) of milk whilst whisking to avoid any lumps (keep whisking until it thickens then add 1 more cup of milk. Whisk again until it thickens then add the final cup with a good pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Once that starts to thicken add 1 cup (110g) of grated cheese and stir until it melts, turn off the heat (photos 3-6).

step by step photos for making baked cauliflower cheese

Add the fennel and cauliflower to a large baking dish and pour over the cheese sauce (photos 7 & 8). Cover the dish with tin foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and top the baked cauliflower cheese with the remaining grated cheese. Bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is golden, melted and bubbling. Serve.

The Best Cheeses To Use To Make Cauliflower Cheese

For this recipe I used grated fontal cheese which is a common cheese found in Italy, it’s very similar to Fontina cheese which would be another good choice but it’s a little pricier. Here is a list of good cheeses you could use;

  • Strong cheddar
  • Smoked cheddar such as Applewood
  • A mix of cheddar and blue cheese such as Gorgonzola
  • Try topping the baked cauliflower with a mix of mozzarella and cheddar
  • Fontina
  • Fontal
  • Gruyere
  • Parmesan (use one of the above cheeses for topping)

A close up golden melted cheese on top of baked cauliflower cheese

If you’ve tried this baked cauliflower cheese and fennel or any other recipe on the blog then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

4.93 from 13 votes
Baked Cauliflower Cheese and Fennel
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 
The best baked cauliflower cheese made with slices of fennel and baked in an absolutely delicious cheese sauce. It's topped with, wait for it...more cheese and comes out of the oven bubbling, golden and smelling so delicious it's hard to wait before getting stuck in!
Course: side
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 266 kcal
Author: Emily Kemp
Ingredients
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1/2 cauliflower
  • 1.5 oz (40g) butter
  • 2 heaped tbsp flour
  • 3 cup (750ml) semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 cups (220g) grated cheese (strong cheddar, fontina or gruyere)
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 good pinch salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. First, cut the green tops off the fennel (keep the fronds for garnish) cut it into thick slices and break the cauliflower into small florets. You'll need to cut the stalk off the cauliflower first then it's easy to break and cut apart.

  2. Boil the fennel and cauliflower in a large pot of salted boiling water for 3 minutes then drain and set aside.
  3. To make the cheese sauce, add the butter to a saucepan over a medium heat, once melted add the flour and stir to a thick paste. Let it cook for 1 minute whilst stirring (this cooks out the floury taste).

  4. Next, add 1 cup (250ml) of milk whilst whisking to avoid any lumps (keep whisking until it thickens then add 1 more cup of milk. Whisk again until it thickens then add the final cup with a good pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Once that starts to thicken add 1 cup (110g) of grated cheese and stir until it melts, turn off the heat.

  5. Add the fennel and cauliflower to a large baking dish and pour over the cheese sauce (photos 7 & 8). Cover the dish with tin foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the foil and top the baked cauliflower cheese with the remaining grated cheese. Bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is golden. melted and bubbling. Garnish with fennel fronds (optional) serve.

Recipe Notes

What Can I Add To Baked Cauliflower Cheese? 

Try these other variations;

  • Bacon
  • Spring onions
  • Leeks
  • Broccoli (baked cauliflower and broccoli cheese, so good!)
  • Different cheeses such as blue cheese (because why not?)
  • You can also top it with breadcrumbs

The Best Cheeses To Use To Make Cauliflower Cheese

For this recipe I used grated fontal cheese which is a common cheese found in Italy, it's very similar to Fontina cheese which would be another good choice but it's a little pricier. Here is a list of good cheeses you could use;

  • Strong cheddar
  • Smoked cheddar such as Applewood
  • A mix of cheddar and blue cheese such as Gorgonzola
  • Try topping the baked cauliflower with a mix of mozzarella and cheddar
  • Fontina
  • Fontal
  • Gruyere
  • Parmesan (use one of the above cheeses for topping)

Nutrition Facts
Baked Cauliflower Cheese and Fennel
Amount Per Serving
Calories 266 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 28%
Saturated Fat 11g 55%
Cholesterol 60mg 20%
Sodium 353mg 15%
Potassium 386mg 11%
Total Carbohydrates 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 6g
Protein 13g 26%
Vitamin A 16.1%
Vitamin C 10.9%
Calcium 43.2%
Iron 3.4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    July 1, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    What do you think about adding some browned chicken breast pieces to the dish or leftover rotisserie chicken? I’m thinking it would be a good main dish. Increase cooking time at all?

    • Reply
      Inside the rustic kitchen
      July 2, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Hi Cynthia, I’ve never tried adding chicken but I think it would work great. No need to adjust the cooking temp or time if using cooked chicken.

  • Reply
    Tiffany Alexandria
    February 23, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    I can eat this ALLL DAYYY! all my favorite things in a bowl.

  • Reply
    Marlee Brady
    February 20, 2018 at 5:43 am

    I would gobble this up! I love cauliflower and I love fennel. I need to try them together!

  • Reply
    Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
    February 18, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    The cauliflower and fennel immediately captured my attention. We love the flavor of fennel and we have a cauliflower in the fridge. As I was reading about it I was distracted and the green-eyed monster popped up. I was totally captivated by your backdrop. OMG!! That rustic wood!!!! I love it. If you ever find it missing you’ll know where to start. 😉 I am definitely making your recipe — love everything about it.

  • Reply
    Jen @ feedingglutenfree.com
    February 16, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    This looks amazing!

  • Reply
    Catherine Brown
    February 16, 2018 at 12:05 am

    Mmmm! This looks so creamy…. and cheesy…. and flavorful…. and oh, yeah… there’s cauliflower in there too! Ultimate comfort food!!

  • Reply
    Alia @ Everyday Easy Eats
    February 15, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Gahhhh your baked cauliflower cheese looks so, so cheesy and delish!!! I love the photos. I just ate and now you’re making me hungry again. lol 🙂

  • Reply
    Beth
    February 15, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    My husband and my Dad whine if I don’t make Cauliflower and Cheese for holidays! I could totally eat it as meal and not complain as well! I’m going to try your version with fennel! YUM!

    • Reply
      Inside the rustic kitchen
      February 16, 2018 at 3:29 pm

      I don’t blame them lol it’s so good! I hope you enjoy my version Beth, thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Caroline
    February 15, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Cauliflower cheese takes me back to childhood, but I’ve never had it with fennel. I do love the flavor of fennel, though, and can imagine it goes really well so might have to give this a try!

  • Reply
    Patty
    February 15, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    This cauliflower and fennel gratin looks scrumptious Emily, I love all the tips that you give about substitutions of veggies or cheese. I will try your wonderful recipe next Sunday, I’m sure the fam will love it!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    February 15, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    This looks and sounds fabulous. I have a cauliflower waiting to be made into this, just need to get some fennel. 🙂

  • Reply
    Emily | OatandSesame
    February 15, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    That’s one cheesy masterpiece! Who needs mac n cheese when you have cauliflower! I bet fennel adds a really interesting flavor contrast. I’m always looking for new ways to use fennel. I plan to start growing it in my garden this year.

    • Reply
      Inside the rustic kitchen
      February 15, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      I love fennel this way, so yummy and that’s so great you’re planning on growing it!

  • Reply
    Veena Azmanov
    February 15, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I am addicted to white sauce. I can eat it out of a bowl with a spoon. To feel less guilty of course I add veggies. This looks like my comfort food. LOVE how cheesy and delish this looks.

  • Reply
    Sandi
    February 15, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    What a gorgeous dish. I bet my kids would love it too!

  • Leave a Reply

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