Puntarelle alla Romana is a classic Roman dish you’ll for sure come across when in Rome. The traditional Roman seasoning is kept very simple using only anchovies, garlic and olive oil.
You were probably expecting me to publish another super sweet cake recipe. This time tough I have something better for you. Or lets say, something bitter. Check out this recipe my friend Lisa shared with me.
Bitter is better.
Did you ever hear about puntarelle or cicoria catalogna? This salad is a member of the big and bitter family of chicories that also include endive and different varieties of radicchio, such as Treviso, Tardivo and Castelfranco. Many of these chicories have been cultivated in Italy and especially in the Veneto region since the 15th century. Since then they are part of the Italian cuisine. Puntarelle are cultivated around the Eternal City. Romans serve them as a salad called “puntarelle alla romana”, seasoned with a very simple anchovy and garlic vinaigrette. This salad goes perfectly with any kind of meat, is extremely rich in flavor and looks gorgeous on every table. At the moment you can find puntarelle everywhere in Rome and even ready to be seasoned at most markets in and around the city of Rome.
Finding & preparing puntarelle.
If you are not in Rome, it might not be simple a) finding puntarelle, and b) preparing them. They are not available in most supermarkets or farmer markets outside of Italy. In this case you can replace them with curly endive, frisée or one of the varieties of radicchio. If you are a lucky one and manage to find some fresh cicoria catalogna in your hometown that still needs to be prepared and cut into the typical puntarelle, make sure you have some extra time. The preparation for sure is not difficult and certainly worth the effort required. Vendors in Rome usually use a little wire grid gadget (see picture below).
As an alternative you can also use a knife and cutting board. Make sure to only use the shoots inside the vegetable head. The leaves are very bitter and usually not used for the salad. Pull apart the fat stems at the core of the head and cut off the tough bottom part of the stem. Slice the stems in half lengthwise and slice each half into long, thin strips. Make sure to soak the cut puntarelle in water for a while after trimming. This is key to release the bitterness and let them curl up like in the picture below.
Puntarelle alla RomanaPrint recipe
- 2 large heads puntarelle (or desired amount for 2 people pre-cut at market)
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled
- 3-4 olive-packed anchovy fillets
- 2 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
- 1 pinch of coarse sea salt
- 4 tbsp really good extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Clean, trim and cut the puntarelle. If using radicchio or a different chicory, tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
- Soak the puntarelle in a bowl of cold water for at least 1 hour, until they curl.
- Drain and pat dry the puntarelle with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels.
- Place them in a salad bowl.
- Mash together the garlic and sea salt into a smooth paste. You can use I use a mortar and pestle or simply use a cutting board and mash everything with the flat side of a chef’s knife.
- Add the anchovy fillets and pound until coarsely mashed.
- Transfer the paste to a small bowl and stir in the vinegar and mix well.
- Add the oil and stir until well combined.
- Drizzle the dressing over the puntarelle and season with a generous grinding of black pepper.
- Toss to combine, and serve.
The vinaigrette has a full garlicky, fishy and salty flavor and can also be used as a dressing for any other salad.