Radicchio. It’s bold and bitter, but beautiful to look at. However, if it’s not part of your salad mix, then how do you cook with it? That’s always the challenge I faced whenever I crossed paths with the gorgeous bunches of berry-coloured radicchio staring back at me in the supermarket aisle.
Though radicchio tends to be one of those veggies that you either love or hate, this recipe challenges that idea. First, by roasting radicchio (or any vegetable for that matter), it instantly becomes so much richer in flavour and just the slightly bit caramelized. Secondly, the honey dressing also adds a mild sweetness that helps to balance the tart flavour of the radicchio. Thirdly, the walnut and pancetta topping is another fabulous addition that adds another element of fatty luxuriousness.
The first time I actually had radicchio not served as part of a green salad was actually almost ten years ago when I was in Abruzzo living with my host family. My Ital mamma prepared a radicchio appetizer with chopped and sautéed radicchio with a splash of balsamic vinegar and walnuts. So, I suppose this recipe is in part thanks to her for forever changing my conception of how radicchio could be dressed up!
In fact, it’s influenced me so much that I often make a similar dish with Brussel sprouts that’s also lovely, except I roast the sprouts and then add them to a pan with a balsamic and maple sauce with pancetta, onions and walnuts. Though that’s a great side dish, I find that using radicchio in this case is a lot easier (no need to peel off the yucky layers of all those sprouts) and is also a great way to experiment with a new vegetable!
As I mentioned, it’s a great side dish, but can also work as a main since you have all the components of a balanced meal. You’ve got a healthy portion of vegetables, some protein and good fats from the pancetta and walnuts, respectively. The only thing I’d suggest is to roast two heads of radicchio per person, rather than just one.
Another lovely thing about this recipe is that it looks super impressive to serve to any dinner guests you might have, thanks to keeping the radicchio spears intact. In fact, I remember having an Easter lunch where a guest brought an endive salad with blue cheese. The endive spears looked so elegant and it stuck with me—the radicchio spears have the same effect in this recipe.
Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think? Jasmine and I were practically licking our plates!
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*Makes 4 servings*
4 heads of radicchio
2 cloves of garlic with skins left on
1/4 white onion, chopped
1 cup pancetta, diced
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic glaze
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven at 375°F.
Cut radicchio lengthwise into quarters. Make sure that you don’t cut off that bottom section as it will help the radicchio maintain its shape.
Line the radicchio on a baking sheet along with two cloves of garlic cloves with their skins still on. Drizzle some olive oil, salt and pepper on top. Let roast in the oven for about 25 minutes.
In a pan over medium high heat, cook the onions and pancetta for about 10 minutes until the onion is translucent and pancetta has turned crispy. Toss in the walnuts and toast for another 3 minutes. Set aside.
In a mason jar, add olive oil, balsamic glaze, mustard, honey, oregano, salt and pepper.
Once the radicchio and garlic are cooked, remove the garlic cloves from their skins and add to the dressing jar and cover. Shake well to combine.
Place radicchio spears on a serving dish and top with the honey dressing and the pancetta and walnut mixture.