Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin

Barefoot Contessa’s Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin is a deliciously rich soup – caramelized onions and fennel in a buttery beef broth, topped with savory cheese and a thick slice of bread. Enjoy it as an appetizer or a meal in and of itself.

Barefoot Contessa's Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin is a deliciously rich soup - caramelized onions and fennel in a buttery beef broth, topped with savory cheese and a thick slice of bread. Enjoy it as an appetizer or a meal in and of itself.

When this post was originally published, I was just finding my footing with blogging. Few photos, poor quality. See? 


Awful, right? While I still think I have a lot to learn, my photography has come a long long way. 

As the weather turns colder (we’re had snow flurries several times this week), I’ve been craving lots of soup. My freezer is stocked with Mom’s Italian Wedding Soup and Turkey Noodle Soup for lunch, but at the recommendation of Barefoot Bloggers, I recently tried my hand at making an onion soup – Ina’s Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin. I love it! It was easy, and my favorite part, it was not overly salty.

Over the years, this recipe became one that my family enjoys and requests again and again. It takes a good chunk of time to prep all the veggies and to cook, but it’s well worth it. 

Barefoot Contessa's Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin is a deliciously rich soup - caramelized onions and fennel in a buttery beef broth, topped with savory cheese and a thick slice of bread. Enjoy it as an appetizer or a meal in and of itself.

This soup is hearty enough to stand on its own, perhaps with a bit of extra bread for lunch or paired with a sandwich, such as Ina’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich. I’ve also served it over the years as a first course to more elaborate homemade dinners (eg. Christmas) – just serve a smaller portion because it is quite filling. 

Recipe Notes:

  • Ina’s original recipe was supposed to serve 4-6. I have no idea where that number came from – this recipe made a huge batch, probably more like 8-12 servings as a soup course, depending on the size of the bowl you use.  The soup is freezable, so take advantage of that!
  • I don’t work with fennel frequently but don’t let it’s addition to this recipe scare you away. Fennel tastes like licorice when raw but loses the bitterness when cooked. Here, you can’t tell that it’s a mix of fennel and onion in the soup. 
  • The Broth. I added a couple extra bay leaves at the start of cooking, and a good teaspoon of pepper and tablespoon of kosher salt after cooking to up the flavor. In the past, I have attempted to make this with vegetable broth to make it vegetarian and while it was well-received, I didn’t think it had the same wonderful depth of flavor as using beef broth. 

Barefoot Contessa's Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin is a deliciously rich soup - caramelized onions and fennel in a buttery beef broth, topped with savory cheese and a thick slice of bread. Enjoy it as an appetizer or a meal in and of itself.

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Barefoot Contessa's Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin is a deliciously rich soup - caramelized onions and fennel in a buttery beef broth, topped with savory cheese and a thick slice of bread. Enjoy it as an appetizer or a meal in and of itself.

Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin

Barefoot Contessa's Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin is a deliciously rich soup - caramelized onions and fennel in a buttery beef broth, topped with savory cheese and a thick slice of bread. Enjoy it as an appetizer or a meal in and of itself.

Course Appetizer, Soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 3 lbs. Spanish onions quartered and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 2 lbs. fennel tops and cores removed, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 c. dry sherry
  • 1/2 c. brandy
  • 1 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 8 c. low-sodium beef broth
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small sourdough, white French boule, or baguette cut into 1/2 in thick slices
  • 4-6 oz. Gruyère cheese grated

Instructions

  1. In a large stock-pot over medium-high heat, melt butter and olive oil. Add onions and fennel and cook until golden-brown, 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. When browned, add sherry and brandy. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up bits from bottom of the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for another 15  minutes.
  3. Add broth, bay leaves, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. At this point, the broth was fairly flavorless. I added at least 1 tsp. pepper and 1 Tbs. kosher salt.
  4. Preheat broiler. Pour soup into oven-safe serving bowls. Top with toasted bread and grated cheese. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?

Barefoot Contessa's Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin is a deliciously rich soup - caramelized onions and fennel in a buttery beef broth, topped with savory cheese and a thick slice of bread. Enjoy it as an appetizer or a meal in and of itself.

This post was updated with new photos and a recipe card, to enhance reader experience in February 2020. The recipe remained unchanged. 

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