Radicchio has only been grown here since the 1980s. One particular kind has enjoyed a very special career over the last ten years: Radicchio di Castelfranco from Veneto, with its yellow leaves, pretty red speckles and significantly finer leaf structure with fewer bitter compounds.
In total, there are currently around ten varieties of radicchio, most of which are grown in Northern Italy. Some are now harvested here in Switzerland, too. Early varieties are available from the summer onwards, others from late autumn to spring. Like the petal- shaped queen of the family, Radicchio Rosso di Treviso tardivo, with the protected designation of origin IGP. This particularly beautiful and distinctive vegetable is only grown in certain municipalities of the provinces of Treviso, Padua and Venice.
The radicchio family is a type of chicory and is related to other bitter-tasting salad leaves and vegetables. A wide range of varieties have been bred and grown, above all in Northern Italy. Radicchio’s culinary appeal lies in its diversity of flavours. With its distinctive bitter aromas, radicchio is delicious both raw and fried. Exciting pairings can be made with sweet-and-sour and fatty ingredients.
It is mainly the complex bitter aromas that make radicchio so exciting and refreshing for our taste buds. The plant’s crisp texture coupled with its veins that are firm to the bite and delicate leaves is also appealing. Radicchio goes especially well with ingredients that balance out these bitter compounds – sweet-and-sour vinegars like Aceto tradizionale di Modena or citrus fruits like blood orange, but also fatty accompaniments like cheese, fish or meat. A further classic way of cooking it is with red wine in a risotto.
Radicchio contributes exciting elements to complex dishes in terms of flavour, aesthetics and texture. And with creative and innovative techniques, there are still many different combinations to discover and try out.
It all depends on the preparation method. Raw and served with a vinegar dressing or fermented, radicchio goes well with soft, creamy white or sparkling wines from Northern Italy. If roasting flavours or fatty elements are brought into the mix, powerful, structured white wines or light red wines are also a good choice.
Words Claudio Del Principe
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