A display of different coloured radicchio is inevitably the star of any food market. The radicchio from Castelfranco is almost too beautiful to consider eating with its yellowy leaves mottled with red. Wispy, elongated, crimson and white leaves of the red radicchio from Treviso appear otherworldly. But my favourite may be the delicate pink flowers of the Rosa di Gorizia. All of these are intensely delicate to handle and bitter in flavour. Many types of radicchio are expensive as they are cost intensive to cultivate as some are deprived of light as they mature. Radicchio appeal to a niche market who can celebrate bitterness as a welcome addition to a range of flavours, particularly when juxtaposed to offer contrast.
While as a child, I despised bitter and celebrated sweet (even sickly sweet), as I grow older I find I enjoy bitter flavours increasingly and my sweet tooth is waning. Radicchio is the perfect foil to fatty meats in particular. Radicchio salad with a selection of salumi is always nice. Cooking radicchio takes some of the bite out of the bitterness. We often grill wedges of radicchio to serve with grilled sausages. When I make radicchio risotto, I often add some crumbled sausage and even my children will eat it. The creaminess of the risotto is balanced by the slight bitterness and crunch of the radicchio. Add more sophisticated toppings of toasted hazelnuts and gorgonzola to create a more elaborate dish.
Risotto con radicchio (risotto with radicchio) – Veneto
I will often stir in some cooked crumbled sausage if cooking for children. Otherwise, this dish is also amazing served topped with 20 chopped, toasted hazelnuts or walnuts with 60 grams crumbled gorgonzola or goat cheese. For illustrated step-by-step instructions, click here.
1 onion, skin and ends removed, finely chopped
50 grams butter
350 grams risotto rice
120 mls red wine
50 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1 radicchio, rinsed and shredded
30 mls extra-virgin olive oil
Saute the onion with half of the butter over low heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the risotto and toast for for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine and allow it to evaporate completely. Begin adding the hot broth with a ladle until covering the rice. Stir with a wooden spoon, adding another ladle of hot broth as the rice absorbs the broth to ensure that it is covered. Continue until the rice is cooked, about 16 to 20 minutes depending on the variety.
Meanwhile during the last 5 minutes of cooking, heat a large frying pan over high heat. When hot, add the oil and the radicchio, tossing until it is seared and wilted (about 3 minutes). Sprinkle with salt and remove from the heat.
When the rice is cooked stir in the remaining butter and 30 grams of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve the risotto topped with the seared radicchio and the remaining cheese.