I made tomato soup based on Adam Ragusea's recent video. It's a simple reciple:

  1. Chop a medium-large onion, shave a bulb of fennel and toss both into a stick of butter with some freshly ground black pepper (he adds celery seeds, I added two stalks of celery chopped).

  2. Add two large cans of quality tomatoes, with the juice and a glass of water or some white wine.

  3. Bring to a simmer and wait until mostly ready, you can use a potato masher to break the tomatoes and speed the process (so it's about 45 minutes).

  4. Puree with a stick blender, then add salt, water and pepper to preference. Straining optional. Sugar is optional if the tomatoes are too acidic.

I did exactly that and got what I thought was a pretty basic and decent tomato soup. But while the onion was very pronounced (and not very cooked, to be honest, so I'd brown the onions a bit before adding the rest), there is no hint of the fennel.

Other than using two bulbs of fennel, what could possibly be the reason, and how do I make it more flavorsome?

  • 1
    It's possible that you don't really notice the fennel with those other flavors, but you might still miss it if you made the recipe again without it. Sometimes the intention of a recipe is not that you can taste all the flavors in it, instead some flavors are in support or "filling in the cracks" of the palate overall. Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 2:53
  • @Todd: That crossed my mind, but I know that fennel can be pretty notable (e.g. in Italian-style sausages), and with only a small number of ingredients I had hoped for a bit more kick.
    – Ink blot
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 14:00
  • 1
    @Inkblot The sausages use the seeds, not the bulb. They are way stronger, albeit slightly different in flavor.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 16:37

3 Answers 3


Fennel is a fairly delicate flavor. I can see how caramelized onion and tomato would easily over power it. The bulb actually provide the most delicate flavor of fennel. If you want a more pronounced flavor, I would suggest fennel seed. I would further suggest you toast them first. They can then be used whole, or, if you want an even stronger flavor, grind the seeds. You could also garnish with the frond, but still that is rather delicate compared to using seeds.

  • Thanks. I'll try that next time. If no other answers are given in the next couple of days I'll accept this one.
    – Ink blot
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 19:33
  • 8
    Is the fennel flavor just being overwhelmed, or is some of it being lost by the long cooking? If the latter, they reserve some of the sautéed fennel mixture, and add it in right at the end.
    – csk
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 19:52
  • 8
    Be sparing with the fennel seed, add it slowly as you could very easily add too much.
    – GdD
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 8:06

Most vegetables starts to lose their natural flavor when cooked too long, which could be the case for your fennel, and the flavor would be even harder to notice after pureeing with rich tomato-butter-onion.

BBC Good Food recommends boiling whole funnel for 20 minutes, and boiling fennel wedges for 12 minute, both of which are way less compared to 45 minutes. So I recommend you wait for like 15 minutes before adding your fennel into the simmer. You might also want to turn up the heat for a bit after adding the funnel if the addition of cold vegetables into the pit stops the simmer.


Spike the soup?

Maybe you could resurrect what you were looking for in the soup you have? You could spike it with a little bit of anise liqueur. There are lots of options. I would not cook the liqueur but add it cold to the soup you made.

Special fennel treatment?

Option for next time: do not cook fennel bulb with the big boys. Sautee fennel separately then add at the very end with another trip thru the blender.

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