It’s funny the things you start to look forward to as a CSA member. I have been anxiously awaiting the return of radicchio ever since making this panzanella in June! Radicchio is pretty bitter chicory leaf, I think it’s best lightly cooked and generously seasoned. Cacio e pepe is literally “cheese and pepper pasta” think of it as a grown-up mac and cheese, although I really toned down the cheese in this version, making it comforting but surprisingly light. If the bitter flavor is really hard for you to get past serve it with a side of winter squash – the sweetness will help mellow it out.
This is also, a quick and easy weeknight meal. Assemble the ingredients while the pasta cooks, and dinner will be ready in less than 20 minutes. Gluten free people, needn’t shy away from this recipe, the test version was made with brown rice pasta. No one could tell the difference! It will take some time to grind 2 teaspoons of fresh black pepper, but it’s worth it. I think it’s probably the most labor intensive part of the dish. While the pasta boils melt the butter, then lightly toast the pepper in the pan. Add the radicchio to the pan, and lightly cook until it starts to lose it’s vibrant color and reduces in volume.
The key to this dish is the pasta water, as with many pasta dishes that involve cheese! When the noodles are just about cooked (for this dish we’re going to undercook them by 2 minutes), use a glass or metal measuring cup to scoop out 3/4 of a cup of the starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta and add to the radicchio pan. Over low heat add the remaining butter, most of the cheese, and most of the pasta water. Gently cook until cheese is melted and combined.
Radicchio Cacio e Pepe
1 small head of radicchio, bottom removed, thinly sliced
12 oz spaghetti (gluten free if necessary)
1 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil with a large pinch of salt. Boil the noodles for 2 minutes less than directions call for. While the pasta is boiling melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium low heat in a large sauté pan. Add pepper, and toast for a minute or two, then add radicchio and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for about 4 minutes until radicchio starts to lose it’s vibrant color and reduces in volume. Turn off heat, and leave radicchio and pan on the stove.
When the pasta is finished boiling, remove 3/4 of a cup of water from the pot. Drain noodles and add to sauté pan.
Over low heat, add 1/2 cup of pasta water and all of the cheese to the pan. Gently cook stirring with tongs until cheese is melted and evenly distributed. If pasta seems dry, add more cooking water. Remove from heat, taste and adjust salt and pepper. Serve with fresh ground pepper, grated cheese, and crushed red pepper for garnish.