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Anna Jones’ recipe for pasta with radicchio and balsamic dressing

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Bitter is not a comfortable word – certainly not when it comes to food. It’s a flavour that has been bred out of our food. Despite the reappearance of negronis on cocktail menus and radicchio in restaurants, bitter is not a flavour most want to introduce into our own cooking. But I think of bitter foods as I would spicy or salty foods. Too much can derail a dish but, balanced with other flavours– sweet, sharp, salty – bitter can be that triumphant, missing piece of a dish’s flavour puzzle. Bittersweet, you could say.

Strozzapreti with radicchio and balsamic

This is as offbeat as pasta recipes get, but it is one of my favourite bowlfuls. It hits all the flavour and texture notes without too much work.

Prep 10 min
Cook 25-30 min
Serves 4

For the pesto
50g walnuts
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 small bunch of oregano or marjoram, leaves picked
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked
70ml extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp

For the dressing
2 tbsp thick balsamic vinegar (or normal balsamic mixed with honey)
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
Zest of 1 orange

For the pasta
2 head of radicchio or treviso, cut lengthways into quarters
400g strozzapreti or fusilli pasta
50g parmesan or vegetarian Italian hard cheese

Toast the walnuts in a pan for a few minutes, until golden, then bash them in a mortar with the garlic and a good pinch of sea salt until you have a thick paste.

Add the herbs and bash again, then add 70ml of the oil and mix the whole lot together to form a deep-green pesto slick. Taste and season with a bit more salt and pepper, if needed.

Make the dressing: in a big bowl, mix the balsamic, chilli, garlic, orange zest and the extra tablespoon of oil.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, cook to packet instructions (until al dente), then drain, reserving a little of the cooking water for later.

As the pasta cooks, heat a griddle pan and grill the radicchio until charred on one side only, then toss in the dressing while it is still hot. Once the leaves are cool enough to handle, shred roughly.

Put the drained pasta back into the pan, add some of the pesto and mix well. Add enough cooking water to loosen to a creamy sauce, then add the shredded radicchio and serve with lots of grated cheese.

Bitter orange salad dressing

A favourite dressing for salads and roast vegetables.

Anna Jones’ bitter orange salad dressing.
 Anna Jones’ bitter orange salad dressing.

Prep 10 min
Makes 200ml
The juice of 4 oranges (about 100ml)
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 t
bsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp baby capers
, drained
Sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together and taste, adding more salt, orange juice and oil as needed, until the dressing tastes good. Test by dipping a salad leaf in – the water of the leaf will dilute the dressing, giving a truer sense of the flavour.

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