Face chicory flavor head-on with radicchio

Ari Levaux, More Content Now | 4/7/2017, 6 a.m.
This simple combination pairs the bitterness of the radicchio with the different kind of bitterness of grapefruit, creating a continuum ...
Radicchio is also known as Italian chicory, after the broad family of crisp, bitter, leafy plants of which it’s a member. Photo: Ari LeVaux

As you explore the bitter side of food, you’ll realize that bitterness is not a single flavor but myriad tastes. Eventually, instead of thinking of it as bitter flavor, it will simply be flavor.

In the states, where the palate for bitterness has barely evolved beyond the examples that make you feel drunk, wired or loved, we tend to make bitter foods palatable by adding sweetness, like a honey balsamic vinaigrette. That’s fine, but also a missed opportunity to embrace that bitter flavor and expand your palate. Rather than hide from bitterness, it can be thrilling to face it head-on, and flex your taste muscles in the process.

Here is a simple Italian pasta recipe that uses chioggia, the most common chicory variety in the states and thus easiest to get a hold of. It’s a decadent dish, pink in hue and full of so much cream and cheese you won’t feel like you’re eating health food.

Bitter and Creamy Pink Pasta

  • ¹⁄³ pound leek, shallot or onions
  • One good-sized head of Chioggia radicchio
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • One pound of pasta like fusilli, or some other textured noodle that can really grab onto the sauce
  • Salt
  • Thyme, to taste
  • 4 Tablespoons grated aged Grana Padano, Pecorino or similar hard, aged cheese
  • ½ cup cream

Mince the onion and radicchio, and saute them in the olive oil. While that’s happening, cook and drain the noodles.

When the onions are translucent and the radicchio is wilted, remove ¾ of this mixture from the pan and puree with the cream and salt.

Add the noodles to the pan and saute with the cheese and thyme. Add the pink sauce, stir around, and serve.

Ari LeVaux writes Flash in the Pan, a syndicated weekly food column that’s appeared in more than 50 newspapers in 25 states. Ari lives can be reached at flash@flashinthepan.net.