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Fennel Seeds Are The Subtly Sweet Ingredient Your Lasagna Is Missing

A pan of lasagna
A pan of lasagna - From_my_point_of_view/Getty Images

Spices are at the heart of almost every good meal. Different spices and seasonings can bring to dishes unique flavors that are both exciting and unexpected. One of the most underrated spices is arguably fennel seeds. Taken from the fennel herb, these little guys are dried seeds that are packed with complex flavors from a warming earthiness to sweet and spicy licorice. They're incredibly healthy too, with every powerful little grain containing compounds such as anethole, which has been credited with reducing cancer risks, and plenty of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Fennel seeds are extremely versatile, and one way you may have never thought to use them is in a classic lasagna recipe. Fennel seeds in the sauce can add depth and can also cut through lasagna's meaty, cheesy richness with some unexpected sweetness. That's exactly what spices like fennel seeds are great for -- adding a surprising and delicious twist. Another benefit of using fennel seeds is their texture. Fennel seeds add a soft crunch to lasagna that can enliven the dish's smoother, softer textures. When you consider the unique taste and texture of this spice, you can start to see how fennel seeds can round out your lasagna.

Read more: 11 Of The Best Cooking Tips From Bobby Flay

Reaping The Benefits Of Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds in a ladle
Fennel seeds in a ladle - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Lasagna is such a beloved classic that almost everyone knows what to expect from it. If you want to make this homestyle dish even more complex and interesting to eat, reach for some fennel seeds. Although elevating lasagna's taste and texture are the main reasons why fennel seeds work so well in lasagna, they also give off a warm, sweet aroma as they bake that permeates all dimensions of this dish. Fennel seeds work well in meat lasagna or vegetarian versions including a squash lasagna recipe, which makes them a great choice for anyone who likes to adventure from the traditional when cooking and eating.

Fennel seeds are small, but they are mighty in taste, so it doesn't take a lot to reap the benefits of this herbaceous ingredient. Actual measurements will depend on the recipe, so to start, add fennel seeds a few at a time and taste-test as you go. Typically, fennel seeds taste best after they've been crushed or toasted, since either action further extracts this spice's hidden flavors. If you want to punch your lasagna with the most fennel flavor possible, first roast the seeds in a dry frying pan until fragrant, or crush them into powder with a mortar and pestle before you add them to your lasagna sauce.

Fennel Seeds Take Many Dishes To New Flavor Heights

Pasta with fennel seeds on the side
Pasta with fennel seeds on the side - larik_malasha/Shutterstock

Fennel seeds are often featured in pickle recipes, aromatic pots of curried chicken, and chutneys. They can also elevate a myriad of unexpected dishes. Have you ever tried fennel seeds in a salad? There's a lot this spice can bring to a salad bowl, from a refreshing vinegar-forward cucumber salad to a quinoa salad loaded with chopped vegetables. Add crushed fennel seeds to salad dressing, and you can pour delicious fennel flavors on any type of salad you crave.

Fennel seeds are also considered a great complement to many fresh seafood dishes. Crush some of this spice and add it to a marinade for salmon or shrimp to enhance their delicate flavors with something warm and sweet. The same benefits can be shared in meatier entrees featuring chicken, beef, or pork.

Much like lasagna, pizza is another tomato-based canvas to test this spice on. Sprinkle just a few fennel seeds on top of your pie like you would red pepper flakes or Parmesan and experience how much the sweet, licorice taste of fennel seeds can elevate the heavy richness of a pizza. If you make a homemade pizza, you could crush a few fennel seeds into your tomato sauce or maybe knead some into the dough. Fennel seeds can upgrade a whole lot more than your lasagna, so don't stop your culinary exploration there. Take advantage of the versatility of fennel seeds -- there are plenty of ways to use them.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.