Radicchio Pasta: A Quick Fall Food

by Lael Hazan on November 1, 2010

Photo by Joseph De Leo

Radicchio, a type of chicory, is a flavorful and versatile fall vegetable.  Most people are familiar with the round red radicchio known as Rosa di Chioggia, but there are many other kinds of radicchio, ranging in flavor from mild to robust.  Radicchio originates in the Veneto region of Italy, where many of the towns are known for their particular kind.

There is the variegated radicchio, whose  large leaves are green with red flecks from Castelfranco; the elongated red radicchio di Treviso, which resembles a small romaine lettuce; and our families’ favorite, the beautiful and deliciously nutty, almost sweet, tardivo di Treviso, whose narrow leaves curl at the top.  There are also some green leafy radicchios that add a wonderful mildly bitter flavor to salads.

Fall is one of my favorite times of year to visit Italy’s vegetable markets.  Our students are amazed by the bounty and variety as we lead them through the crowded pathways of the Padua market.   We point out how radicchio is not only used in salads, but also cooked in a variety of dishes

One of our favorite methods is to make a pasta sauce with radicchio.  When it is cooked, radicchio provides a rich deep flavor to a pasta sauce, and loses some of its bitter flavor.  This is a great fall dish that is perfect before a pan-roasted meat as part of a multi-course meal. We often eat by itself,  followed by a salad.

Penne with Radicchio

From Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta by Giuliano Hazan

Serves 4 people

1/2 large sweet yellow onion

3 tablespoons butter

3 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/8” thick

1 pound radicchio


Freshly ground black pepper

3-4 sprigs flat leaf Italian parsley

1 pound penne (fusilli would also be good here)

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup grated freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1.  Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.

2.  Peel the onion and finely chop it.  Put the butter inn a 12” skillet and place over medium high heat.  When the butter begins to melt, add the onion and sauté until the onion turns to a rich golden color, about 5 minutes.

3.  While the onion is sautéing, cut the pancetta into narrow strips about 1” long.  Remove any bruised leaves from the radicchio, cut it in half lengthwise and cut off the bottom of the root.  Finely shred the radicchio.

4.  When the onion is done, add the pancetta and cook until it loses its raw color 1-2 minutes.  Add the radicchio and season with salt and pepper.  Add about 1/2 cup water, lower the heat to medium, and cover the pan.  Cook until the radicchio is very tender, about 20 minutes.  Check it periodically and add more water if the liquid evaporates before the radicchio is tender.

5.  While the radicchio is cooking, finely chop enough parsley to measure about 1 tablespoon.

6.  After the radicchio has been cooking for at least 15 minutes, add about 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling pasta water, put in the penne, and stir well.  Cook until al dente.

7.  When the radicchio is tender, uncover the pan, raise the heat and let any remaining moisture evaporate.  Add the cream and parsley and cook until the cream has thickened and reduced by about one third.

8.  When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve at once.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Daily Spud November 4, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I think that I would be hard pressed to find more than one variety of radicchio in Ireland or, in some cases, knowledge that there was more than one variety! I’ve certainly never cooked with it (in any of its forms) but I will think about doing so next time I happen across some.

Jean November 3, 2010 at 10:39 am

Thank you for dropping by my blog for the Coda alla Vaccinara post. Everything I’ve made from EOCIC has been wonderful.

I have to say that I first tried radicchio pasta in Rome and fell in love with it. I tried to recreate the dish as soon as I returned home but I will definitely borrow your recipe for the next time. Thanks!

Carolyn Jung November 3, 2010 at 1:21 am

A lovely seasonal dish that’s so easy to do, too. And even those who don’t think they like radicchio will enjoy this, what with the lovely cream softening the natural bitterness a bit.

UrMomCooks November 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Lovely and simple – the best way to eat!

torviewtoronto November 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm

looks delicious

Shirley @ gfe November 2, 2010 at 11:15 am

What a beautiful dish! With the pancetta that’s included and some gluten-free pasta, I am so there. ;-) Love the look of the variegated radicchio, too.


Amelia from Z Tasty Life November 2, 2010 at 8:09 am

The color is so dramatic. The dish is simple and elegant and must taste very sharp

Dana November 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I love that top photo! I struggle a bit with raw radicchio because of its bitterness, but I love it grilled or cooked. I have made it with gnocchi and this sounds even better.

Meeta November 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm

i love radicchio in warm savory dishes. i used it last as a pizza topping with pears. this is just perfect!

Stephanie M at Together In Food November 1, 2010 at 11:45 am

Beautiful photos of the various radicchio. I love the quick recipe for a weeknight dinner. Thank you for sharing!

Jamie November 1, 2010 at 11:37 am

Simple, elegant and fabulous! I fell in love with radicchio in all of its forms when living in Italy and this is a wonderful way to use it. Must try!

Jaden November 1, 2010 at 11:30 am

Beautiful, simple and elegant!

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