Recipe: Tagliatelle with Treviso Radicchio, Guanciale, and White Wine
Being a gal of Southern Italian spirit, I never quite know what to do with the very northern seeming Treviso radicchio I find in many food shops in winter and spring. Such a beautiful deep Venetian red, a red with pink undertones (for lipstick I prefer red with a hint of orange, better for olive skin, I think). Cooking this gorgeous vegetable is sad for me, as it darkens almost to black right before my eyes, a turnoff, to be honest, and a reality that has dampened my creative energy for this member of the chicory family, the beautiful bitters, as I like to call them. I like Treviso radicchio best when it’s cooked, but that’s when it goes all ugly on you.
Around the Venice area, where the most exquisite radicchio is traditionally grown, there are many types to choose from. Here in Manhattan I can usually find the round Chioggia variety all year, and the Treviso, which in Venice is called Treviso Precoce, that I chose for this pasta dish, in season. It resembles a blowsy red endive.
I’ve tried cooking Treviso radicchio with pasta several times but have never been completely satisfied with how it ended up looking. Now I’ve given up on preserving its color and just concentrate on its flavor. Red happens to be my favorite color, so any red vegetable I’m bound to get hung up on. Can’t be helped.
I wanted a pasta that was bitter, unmistakably vegetable, but also just a little rich. My mind turned to lardo (actually my entire brain often feels like lardo). I was thinking pork fat, maybe not lardo per se; guanciale or pancetta would do the trick as well. I settled on guanciale, unctuous but not as fatty as pure lard, perfect to smooth out radicchio’s sharp edges and add suaveness.
I also found that adding the radicchio to a warm sauce base right as I turned off the heat, and letting it wilt, would retain a hint of its lovely red. That works if you happen to think the color of dried blood is lovely. I have to admit I do.
Tagliatelle with Treviso Radicchio, Guanciale, and White Wine
2 medium Treviso radicchios
Extra-virgin olive oil
A little less than ¼ pound guanciale, cut into small cubes (if you can’t find guanciale, use pancetta)
1 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, very thinly sliced
2 sprigs rosemary, the leaves well chopped
½ teaspoon sugar
About ¼ cup dry white wine
½ cup homemade or good quality prepared chicken broth
½ pound tagliatelle
A handful of lightly toasted pine nuts
A small chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
A handful of Italian parsley, lightly chopped
Cut the radicchio in half lengthwise, and core it. Slice it into half moon shapes.
Set up a pot of pasta cooking water, and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt.
In a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the guanciale, and let it release its fat and crisp slightly. Add the shallot, and let that soften. Add the garlic, the rosemary, and the sugar, and let them heat just until everything gives off a nice aroma, about a minute.
Drop the tagliatalle into the water.
Add the white wine, and let it bubble for a few seconds. Add the chicken broth, and simmer for a minute or so. Turn off the heat.
Add the radicchio to the skillet, and stir it around for about a minute, just until it starts to wilt. Season with salt and black pepper.
When the tagliatelle is just tender, drain it, and pour it into a warmed serving bowl (I like a shallow and wide one for this pasta so it can spread out and stay loose). Add a generous drizzle of fresh olive oil. Add about a tablespoon of grated Parmigiano and the pine nuts, and give everything a gentle toss. Pour on the radicchio sauce, and toss again. Top with a little sprinkling of Parmigiano, and garnish with the parsley. Serve right away. A Fiano di Avellino, a rich white from Campania with no oaky undertones, would be a good wine with this pasta.