I ate this on repeat over summer. A radicchio from a stall in Notting Hill market. I am one of those people who just a book by its cover, a wine by its label. Judge it to be worth reading or drinking. I’m a magpie, attracted and distracted by shiny objects. So I had to pick one up. Maybe on the surface it was because of its colour, maybe subconsciously, it was something else. I very rarely eat bitter flavours. Coffee needs a spoonful or brown sugar, Guinness, when I used to drink it as a student, needed a splash of blackcurrant. Bitter is not a flavour I eat regularly. Whatever the reason I grabbed a radicchio from a box of crimson jewels, nestling among the courgettes and the onions, it came from someplace that’s not on the surface.
I’ve made this recipe three times since then. I used red wine twice and it tasted good, but the third time I substituted Balsamic vinegar and it elevated the flavour, providing a hit of acid to cut through the cream and bring out the sweet bitter flavour of the radicchio
This doesn't take long to pull together. Just enough time to cook down the panchetta and wilt the leaves while the pasta is cooking. Cooking the radicchio softens the bitterness of the radicchio and the balsamic offers a slightly sweet sharp note against the fatty, saltiness of the bacon. A scattering of toasted walnuts at the end gives crunch and a nice earthiness.
1/2 head of radicchio, sliced thinly
80g of panchetta, sliced into thin strips
1 clove garlic
200g pasta of your choice
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a handful walnuts, toasted
3 tbsp parmesa, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt if needed and pepper
Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add a pinch of salt and the pasta and cook until al dente.
Heat a pan on a medium heat and add the olive oil. Slice the garlic and add to the pan.
Add the panchetta and cook until the fat renders and the panchetta takes on colour.
Roughly chop the walnuts and toast in a pan until they take on a little colour.
Add the radicchio and stir through until it starts to wilt. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir through. You can add a pinch of sugar to balance the flavour if it is too bitter or too sharp.
Drain the pasta, keeping a cup of the water, and add to the pan with the radicchio. Stir through. Add the parmesan and continue to stir, adding a little pasta water if necessary. Check for seasoning.
Dish out into two bowls or plates, sprinkling with the remaining parmesan and the walnuts and a grind of pepper.