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Penne mould with radicchio (Pasticcio de penne al radicchio)

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Radicchio is one of those vegetables that has entered the Indian market and is viewed quizzically as it is new to most folks. It has however been used extensively in Italian cuisine and is commonly also known as Italian chicory.

Modern cultivation of radicchio started in the 15th century in the Venice and Trentino regions of Italy. But the deep-red radicchio of today was engineered in 1860 by Belgian agronomist Francesco Van den Borre, who used a technique called imbianchimento (whitening), preforcing, or blanching to create the dark red, white-veined leaves. The plants are taken from the soil and placed in water in darkened sheds, where lack of light and ensuing inhibition of chlorophyll production cause the plants to lose their green pigmentation.

This is a lovely recipe. The dish is bright wherein the redness from the radicchio makes the sauce a light pink. The textures alternate between the soft pasta, the crunchy vegetables and the creamy cheese and sauce. The flavours are mild and the radicchio adds a subtle bitterness that is pleasing. This can be a main course for a vegetarian, but I prefer to use it as a side for larger meals.

Lorenza's Pasta is a collection of elegant pasta dishes by Lorenza. Sge made her reputation on a PBS TV show and this book has won the James Breard Award. This is a lovely cookbook with unique recipes that step away from the normal. The sauces are excellent and the dishes are favourites at home.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


6 oz. penne pasta

1 large onion, thinly sliced

10 oz. radicchio, thinly sliced

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

8 oz. Parmesan cheese grated

For the white sauce (Salsa besciamella):

2 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

Salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper

!/2 teaspoon nutmeg

To make the white sauce:

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour. Stir in to create a smooth rouge. There should be enough butter to make a smooth paste with the flour that will fry. Cool on a low flame for 3-4 minutes till the flour smells nutty and has turned a very pale golden.

Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and milk. Stir well to get a smooth sauce. Cook on low heat stirring continually to work the lumps into the sauce, till you have the consistency of light cream. Take off the heat and set aside.

Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the box minus 1 minute for al dante. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions. Fry for 1 minute till the onion is just cooked but not yet soft. Add the radicchio and stir fry for 4 minutes to get the radicchio soft but with a light crunch. Add to the pasta and mix in well.

Add 3/4 of the cheese and 3/4 of the white sauce and mix in well with the pasta. Beat the eggs lightly and mix in.

In a 9X9 inch Pyrex or other oven-safe dish layer the butter on the bottom and sides. Add the pasta mix and tamp down to an even layer. Top with the remaining white sauce and cheese. The dish can be assembled and stored in the fridge for 24 hours.

Heat the oven to 375° F.

If the dish has been chilled bring it up to room temperature. Bake for 30-35 minutes till the pasta is boiling in the centre and the top is golden-browned in spots. Cool for 3 minutes and serve.

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