Fall is here and that means that the season for roasting has arrived once again. If the rapidly decreasing temperatures of late have you feeling a little blue, take comfort in the fragrant warmth of Orange Roasted Root Vegetables.

This side dish features a medley of superstar fall veggies, including carrots, parsnips and fennel, whose intense flavors are complemented by the addition of sliced oranges and fresh thyme and a marinade of olive oil, maple syrup and orange juice. Bursting with fall color, this dish is pleasing to behold, easy to prepare and packed with nutritional benefits.

Carrots are a great source of beta carotene, the yellow-orange pigment that gets its name from carrots and is responsible for the vegetable's vibrant, orange color. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that converts into vitamin A upon consumption, which helps promote a healthy heart and boost immunity. Carrots are also a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, K-1 and B-6.

Carrots, parsnips, fennel and clementine oranges are prepared for roasting. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Carrots, parsnips, fennel and clementine oranges are prepared for roasting. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

With their bland, white appearance, parsnips are often overlooked in favor of more colorful options, but this root vegetable is one of our favorites for fall and winter. Parsnips have a wonderful sweetness that occurs when its natural starches convert to sugar after the first frost and the parsnips are still in the ground. They are loaded with fiber, vitamin C, folate and manganese, and they're a good source of other important minerals and nutrients.

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Fennel partners well with carrots and parsnips and is a great source for nutrients like vitamin C, fiber, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium. I love fennel in any state, but roasting is ideal for this fragrant plant. In its raw state, fennel is quite crisp with a sharp taste of licorice, but once roasted, this veggie becomes soft and savory, with just a touch of anise.

My husband, Tony, always says, "What grows together goes together." This applies not only to how and where something grows, but also when it grows. Carrots, parsnips and fennel are at their best in fall and winter, and so is citrus, which is why I've added fresh slices of clementine mandarin oranges to this medley.

Carrots, parsnips, fennel and clementine oranges make up the heart of this fall side dish. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Carrots, parsnips, fennel and clementine oranges make up the heart of this fall side dish. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

All these vegetables have a natural sweetness that is enhanced by the oranges and intensified through the roasting process. The caramelization that occurs during roasting brings out the vegetables' natural sugars and gives them a comforting warmth that doesn't exist in their raw state.

When preparing the dish, cut the carrots and parsnips to a similar size to ensure even roasting. To get started, I create a marinade of extra-virgin olive oil, pure maple syrup and fresh orange juice. The maple syrup is added more as a flavor enhancer for the vegetables and fruit and leaves just a hint of maple after roasting, without overpowering the dish.

Fresh thyme is tossed in with the veggies for an extra kick of fall flavor, and fresh parsley is added just before serving for both flavor and a pop of contrasting color.

Once in the oven, Orange Roasted Root Vegetables will fill your kitchen with the fragrance of fall. Once on the table, this side dish will fill your loved ones with the warmth and comfort of nutritious and delicious fall flavors.

Fennel tops can be saved to flavor stocks and soups. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Fennel tops can be saved to flavor stocks and soups. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Orange Roasted Fall Vegetables

Serves: 2 to 4


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Juice from cut ends of oranges

1 pound carrots, washed and peeled, whole for small carrots, halved or quartered for larger ones

½ pound parsnips, washed and peeled, cut to similar size as carrots

1 fennel bulb, cut into wedges

3 to 4 clementine mandarins or 1 large orange, cut into slices ¼-inch thick (leave peel on if desired)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme leaves

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, to garnish


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice from the cut ends of the oranges, straining for any seeds, and add to the oil mixture. Taste and adjust flavors as desired.

Place the carrots, parsnips, fennel and orange slices in a large bowl. Add the oil mixture and fresh thyme and use your hands to gently toss the mixture until the vegetables and fruit are evenly coated.

Spread the vegetables and orange slices out on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with any remaining marinade.

Roast in a 425-degree oven for 25 to 40 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Oven temperatures vary, so start checking for tenderness after 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the vegetables and lightly toss to coat. Taste and add seasoning, if needed; serve and enjoy.

Sarah's Tips

• To ensure even roasting, keep the carrots and parsnips as close in size as possible.

• If you don't have parchment paper, lightly spray the baking sheet with cooking oil before adding the vegetables.

• If preparing the vegetables several hours before roasting, keep the parsnips and carrots covered in water to prevent discoloration and preserve moisture.

• Roasted vegetables may be also be served at room temperature and refrigerated for several days to use in salads and sandwiches.

• Save the fennel fronds and stalks, and any other vegetable ends, to freeze and use later to flavor stocks and soups.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.