Silvia’s Fennel and Red Onion Gratin

Photo by Ryan Bartley; Recipe by Silvia Nacamulli

Photo by Ryan Bartley; Recipe by Silvia Nacamulli

Today I have a special surprise for you: I am quite thrilled to introduce you to my friend Silvia Nacamulli. Silvia, who grew up in Rome, is a fellow foodie, who learned all her tricks from three generations of  talented Jewish nonnas. In London, where she lives with her husband and adorable daughters, she runs the successful cooking school La Cucina di Silvia – Cooking for the Soul, and caters very chic private parties (so chic, in fact, that she was featured in Elle magazine).

Silvia Nacamulli at Relais dei Ciclamini

Silvia Nacamulli at Relais dei Ciclamini

However, Silvia is probably most famous for her culinary vacations in Italy (she is now getting ready for the next one, coming up in June), during which English-speaking Italophiles from all over the world learn how to cook a variety of Italian, and Jewish Italian dishes while relaxing in the gorgeous setting of  Relais Nature La Tenuta dei Ciclamini.

City-dwellers, in particular, can’t get enough of the all-encompassing food experience that Silvia offers beyond the cooking lessons, including truffle or mushroom and chestnut hunts (depending on the season), lessons in cheese- and jam-making, fresh vegetable picking, and great wine. Luckily, the Relais has a giant gym and swimming pool where they can burn it all off!

Relais dei Ciclamini, Umbria (Italy)

Relais dei Ciclamini, Umbria (Italy)

Last September, Silvia and I were both part of a panel at the Museum of Jewish Heritage here in New York, organized by Jayne Cohen and including the über-talented Cara de Silva and Walter Potenza. Before the event we were exchanging favorite recipes, and I practically begged her to guest post this one on my blog. As you may have heard, Italians like to procrastinate – that’s how, between the two of us, it took about six months… but at last Silvia’s recipe is here,  in all its mouthwatering splendor!

Silvia’s Fennel and Red Onion Gratin


  • 3 large red onions
  • 3 heads fennel
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • 4 tbsp freshly minced flat parsley
  • 4-5 tbsp breadcrumbs or panko
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil


Preheat the fan (convection) oven to 375 F and line 2 large sheet trays with parchment paper.

Peel the onions and wash the fennel, eliminating the choke.

Cut the fennel in half thorugh its root and boil it in salted water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and cut again lengthwise: you will have 4 long slices for each head of fennel*.

Cut the onions crosswise into 1 inch-thick slices.

Arrange the fennel and onion on the baking sheet as a single layer.

Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder on top of each onion and fennel slice. Cover with breadcrumbs and parsley, and drizzle with the olive oil.

Bake for about 45 min or until golden. .

*If the fennel is large, cut it into more slices.

Distribute the onions and fennel slices



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  1. where’s MY Jewish Nonna?????!

  2. Hopefully I can try this tomorrow if I can find fennel. For some strange reason there are times I can’t find fennel any where in my area of England.

  3. It’s all gorgeous, the Relais and the recipe. I am fortunate to see fennel frequently in my market. I make it often because my family loves it; this recipe is simple and I like the “crumbles” which I have used for other vegetables but somehow not fennel. Will do now!

  4. Well, I didn’t know you traveled in such swank circles! The Relais looks absolutely gorgeous in its splendid isolation. A week there and I’be a new man… Now to find the time!

  5. Love the recipe and the versatility of using different types of vegetables..and super LOVE the setting for Sylvia’s cooking program!

  6. What a fabulous post, Alessandra! I can only imagine the intrigue and magic that happens when cooking w/Silvia! Love the simplicity of this recipe that, I know, is delicious!! xo ally

  7. Yum, fennel! And I love a preparation that is simple and delicious. What a beautiful dish and incredible setting… Umbria. 🙂

  8. Melissa says:

    I love Silvia’s blog! So happy you brought her over to your site, this is a wonderful post!

  9. Thank you Alessandra for the lovely feature. And everyone for their comments. I’d be delighted to know if you try the recipe and hear your comments.
    I hope to meet some of you one day, and if you or any of your friends are interested in joining my cookery courses in Italy please get in touch, there are only a handful of places left!
    Happy cooking x

  10. Love fennel, love gratins! i really need to make this. craving fennel right now!

  11. I can’t believe these cook in the oven~~I would have thought and imagined fried. love it~ I love onion and fennel and am always looking for a new sidedish. Beautiful

  12. OMG, how in the world can I get on one of those vacations!? That’s heavenly! Also, I just got some fennel from a CSA share today so I’m thinking the stars are alined.

  13. Now that’s different!

  14. This sounds amazing! It would make a great addition to a dairy or meat meal.

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