Pasta con la cicoria

Pasta con la cicoria (Pasta with Chicory)

In Campania, pasta, primi piatti by Frank12 Comments

Cicoria, or chicory, also known in English as ‘curly endive’, is a staple of the central and southern Italian diet, or at least so it was traditionally. People from Campania like Angelina were said to be especially fond of leafy green vegetables, so much so that they were sometimes called mangiafoglie, or ‘leaf eaters’ (just as Tuscans are sometime called mangiafagioli for their love of beans). Leafy greens were affordable and could even be scavenged from the countryside. That frugal tradition continues even today; I can remember when I was living outside Rome it was not unusual to see people out in the fields, leaning down here and there to pick up some wild chicory or other greens for their supper.

The health effects of eating your greens were unknown in the old days—in fact, if you read some of the classic older texts like Artusi, you will find that greens were considered poor substitutes for more solid sustenance like meat. These days we know that leafy green vegetables are healthy but, unfortunately, they are no longer super-affordable peasant food. One of the ironies of modern life is how the staples of the underprivileged, vegetables like arugula or radicchio (which is a form of chicory, by the way) have become expensive items that ‘regular’ folks can scarcely afford. But green chicory at least can still be had at a reasonable price and, if you ask me, it is one of the more delicious vegetables. It is crisp and slightly bitter when eaten raw in a salad, while it develops a pleasantly soft texture and almost sweet flavor when cooked. Cicoria is a standard side or even main dish on central and southern Italian tables. (Angelina practically lived off the stuff!) But it also makes for an excellent condimento for pasta.

Pasta with chicory is quick and easy to prepare, perfect for a weeknight supper. You just follow the usual in padella technique that we have featured before:

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 500g (1 lb) pasta of your choice (see Notes)

For the condimento:

  • 500g (1 lb) chicory
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Olive oil

Directions

Trim the chicory of any wilted external leaves, wash it well (the heart often has sand) and parboil in abundant well salted water until just tender. Remove the chicory from the water, cut it up roughly and sauté it in olive and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper and, if you like it spicy, a bit of peperoncino.

Add your pasta, cooked very al dente preferably in the same water in which you have already cooked the chicory, to the skillet with the sautéed chicory. Add a bit more of the pasta-vegetable water and mix well, allowing the pasta to absorb the flavors for a minute or two, by which time most of the liquid should have evaporated and the chicory will have partially ‘melted’ into a kind of sauce for the pasta.

Serve immediately. No grated cheese is called for.

Notes

Some recipes for pasta with chicory call for a bit of anchovy, as you might add to broccoletti (broccoli rabe) but, as much as I love anchovies, I find that their saltiness clashes with the sweetness of the chicory. There is also a version in rosso, where you add tomatoes to the olive and garlic to make a quick sugo di pomodoro before adding the chicory. You will also find recipes that call for topping the pasta with grated cheese (usually pecorino) which I don’t particular feel the need for, but it is no doubt a valid option.

As for the pasta, I would recommend a ‘stubby’ kind like penne (pictured here) but you will also find recipes for pasta with chicory calling for bucatini (aka perciatelli).

Pasta con la cicoria (Pasta with Chicory)

Rating: 51

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Pasta con la cicoria (Pasta with Chicory)

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 lb) pasta of your choice (see Notes)
  • For the condimento:
  • 500g (1 lb) chicory
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Trim the chicory of any wilted external leaves, wash it well (the heart often has sand) and parboil in abundant well salted water until just tender.
  2. Remove the chicory from the water, cut it up roughly and sauté it in olive and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper and, if you like it spicy, a bit of peperoncino.
  3. Add your pasta, cooked very al dente preferably in the same water in which you have already cooked the chicory, to the skillet with the sautéed chicory. Add a bit more of the pasta-vegetable water and mix well, allowing the pasta to absorb the flavors for a minute or two, by which time most of the liquid should have evaporated and the chicory will have partially 'melted' into a kind of sauce for the pasta.
  4. Serve immediately. No grated cheese is called for.
http://memoriediangelina.com/2010/07/06/pasta-con-la-cicoria/

 

Comments

  1. We were introduced to Chicory when we visited Rome and it was served with nearly every dinner. We came home and grew a row in our garden last year. It did great and was an attractive addition to the garden, and we enjoyed it quickly sauteed with a little olive oil and onion. I've saved this and we'll give it a try next year.
    Thanks,
    Loren

  2. hi Frank
    what a wonderful meal…and that china is gorgeous!!
    I was going to say I have used broccoli Rabe and then you did mention it, and I agree the anchovies would not help the flavors in this dish…you want those lovely greens to stand out!
    Great Job!!
    Dennis

  3. Geat dish – I love greens like this (being the NOLA fan that I am, of course I love chicory coffee!) I too have often thought about how strange it is that so-called “peasant foods” are so expensive … it's good that some of them at least are still affordable!

  4. I am sadly ignorant of greens other than spinach. I am so glad to know that chicory gets sweeter with cooking. I think it's the fear of bitterness that was keeping me at bay. This simple dish sounds like a great start.

  5. reminds me of all the wild greens we would bushhog in the fields back on the farm when we should have been out there pickin' – instead we planted and painstakingly tended tender greens for momma to cook…

  6. fantastic encouragement to eat our greens!
    it is odd the peasant foods of yesterday become the elite foods now–lobster comes to mind as well.

  7. I always tend to fall into the same rut when making greens and end up doing a curry or a dal. But your recipe sounds light, unfussy and so tasty for a quick dinner or light lunch! Another great recipe from you! 🙂

  8. Dear Frank, Bringing greens to the table is so essential to the American table…something that has been lost and now with the new interest in healthy eating is itching to be found. This recipe would nourish and still bring the rich savory flavor that you always create. and thank you also for your listing of Jefferson's Table. We are welcoming many new visitors.

  9. A simple dish that is full of flavour…I have taken to gathering some young dandelion greens and preparing them in the same way. Delicious!

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