Italian cooking for longevity and health 
By Emily Laurence
Posted February 19, 2022.

Your kitchen is full of cooking staples that, besides making food taste delicious, are actually scientifically linked to longevity. Olive oil, turmeric, and garlic are a few longevity superstars health experts rave about on a regular basis. But there's another one that's a little more unexpected: ....fennel.

Dan Buettner, a longevity expert has seen first-hand how fennel (a flowering plant in the carrot family that has a mild licorice flavor) is used on a regular basis in Sardinia, Italy, a Blue Zone region where people regularly live to be over 100 in good health. "Fennel grows wild in Sardinia, so it's abundant and cheap there," Buettner says. "It's used in Sardinian cooking in soups, stews, and salads," he says.

Lucina Corhiolu, RD, an Italian registered dietitian who lives in Sardinia, echoes Buettner in saying that fennel is widely used in this longevity hot spot. "Fennel is an ingredient in many dishes from our region, using both the fresh leaves and seeds," she says. "The fresh, chopped leaves are added at the end of the preparation of soups, like vegetable minestrone, or with legumes. It's also an important ingredient for a winter soup called favata, made with broad beans, cabbage, and pork. We also use them to season meats, in sweets, in the preparation of olives in brine, to flavor brandy or to be used as a digestive liquor, or simply to sip as an herbal tea." That's a lot of uses!

Buettner emphasizes that incorporating fennel into your meals is only one small part of a longevity-supporting diet. In his new book, The Blue Zones Challenge, Buettner explains that in Sardinia, whole grains, legumes, meat, fish, poultry, olive oil, and a wide range of other herbs are all part of how they eat as well. Buettner says it's important to think about your eating habits as a whole as well as longevity-supporting habits outside of food, including movement and mindset. But it's a small step that is backed by science. Curious as to how? Keep reading to learn more about fennel benefits.

5 fennel benefits that make it a longevity supporting all-star:

Getting excited to cook with fennel? Below are two Sardinian-inspired recipes to try:

1. Fennel minestrone soup with orzo:

Fennel minestrone soup

As both Buettner and Corhiolu have said, minestrone is a Sardinian favorite, and fennel is a key ingredient. This hearty soup is full of other longevity-supporting foods too, like cannellini beans, garlic, and rosemary.

Fennel Minestrone with Orzo: A simple minestrone that you can throw together quickly with easy pantry staples and fresh fennel bulb! Course Main Course.

Soup ingredients by Author Rachel Leonard:

Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Author Rachel Leonard


Place a large sauce pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and a splash of water and sauté for a few minutes, until slightly soft. Then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the fennel, carrots, celery, and fresh herbs. Add another splash of water, stir for 4-5 minutes until vegetables are tender, add a pinch of salt.

Add the canned tomatoes and vegetable stock, bring soup over high heat until it comes to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then add the cannellini beans, and the kale.

In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Cook orzo using the instructions on the package (5-8 minutes depending on the brand. When cooked, drain the pasta through a colander and run cold water over the pasta, stopping the cooking process.

To serve, portion the orzo into the bowls then pour the hot soup over the pasta. Finish the soup with freshly cracked black pepper.

Another Italian longevity herb bake:

2. Tarelli breadstick fennel

Tarelli breadstickTaralli rings

How to make Taralli -Ingredients:


Instructions - Be sure to read the notes before making this recipe:

First, in a small bowl, add contents of yeast packet, 1 & 3/4 cups of the warm water (110F or should be very warm to your wrist) and sugar. Stir it and let it sit about 5 min. It should start foaming and become active.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer mixing bowl with dough hook, add flour, fennel seeds, olive oil, and salt. (If you don't have a stand mixer, add the ingredients to a large mixing bowl.)

Next, when the yeast mixture has started foaming at 5 minute mark, add it to the flour mixture and stir together until a large dough ball forms. You may need to add the extra 1/4 cup of water but, add a little at a time until dough is smooth as you may not need all of the 1/4 cup.) If you don't have the stand mixer, after you form the dough ball, you'll have to knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth.

Then, put the dough ball into a large oil sprayed bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel and let sit in a warm place to rise. I put mine in the oven at 100F or bread proof setting. If you're house is too cold, it may not rise or not rise enough. Let the dough rise 1-2 hours.

Next, pull the dough out of the bowl and split it into about 8 equal parts. Start with one part and cover what you're not yet using.

Then, pinch off a 2 inch piece of dough. With your fingers, start rolling out the dough into THIN 1/4 inch in diameter pieces if possible. The thinner you can get it the crunchier it'll be. Form them into circles and pinch the ends to close. Once you fill two trays of baking sheets you can start the next step.

Next, preheat oven to 400F.

Then, line cookies sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Next, bring a big pot of water to a boil. Drop 4-6 taralli dough rings into the boiling water. They'll fall to the bottom but, will QUICKLY (about 10 seconds) come to the top which, is when you should remove them with a slotted spoon and put them on a parchment lined (or use silicone mats) cookie sheet spaced about one inch away from each other. Make two trays before baking them.

Then, put the boiled taralli in the oven and bake them for 20-25 minutes or until they are browned and crispy.

Repeat steps 5-9 until all of the taralli dough is made.

Nutrition Calories: 95cal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 71mg | Potassium: 26mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg


Laurence Emily, "This Herb Is a Staple in Sardinia, Where People Live To Be Over 100 in Good Health," February 14, 2022.  Laurence: Fennel herb for health 2022