Makes:6 to 8 servings
The next time you think of bringing lasagne or another noodle casserole to a potluck, try this recipe instead. It softens radicchio’s bitterness by baking it in a cream sauce; plus the gooey, browned bits of mozzarella are hard to resist. This dish is hearty enough to be a whole meal, but it also makes a great accompaniment to a roast or a large green salad with a slightly acidic vinaigrette (to balance the robustness of the pasta).
What to buy: Look for Treviso radicchio, radicchio rosso di Treviso, at gourmet grocery stores or the farmers’ market. This radicchio has a subtler bitter flavor than the more common Chioggia radicchio, radicchio rosso di Chioggia, though it is not as widely grown in the United States.
Game plan: If you want to increase the bitter flavor of the dish, use more of the white ribs and core of the radicchio. If you want a sweeter flavor, use mostly the purple parts.
If you can’t find tasty tomatoes to make this dish, simply substitute a 28-ounce can of high-quality diced tomatoes.
The sauce and the pasta can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in separate containers. To assemble, heat the oven, pick up the recipe at step 4, and bake the mixture until it is heated through and golden brown (which may take a little longer than 20 minutes).
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, small dice (about 1 cup)
7 medium Roma tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored and coarsely chopped
3 heads Treviso radicchio (about 4 cups), ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne rigate or ziti pasta
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the upper third. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it foams, add garlic and onion, season well with salt, and cook until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and let simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Add radicchio and cream and cook until radicchio is wilted, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in the salted water for about half the time recommended on the packaging and drain. (Do not rinse.) Set aside.
Once the sauce has finished simmering, combine it with the half-cooked pasta and mix until the pasta is evenly coated. Place the pasta mixture in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmigiano over top. Place in the oven and bake until the mixture is bubbling, the pasta is al dente, and the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Beverage pairing:Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio, Italy. The wine for this dish needs to match the bitterness of the radicchio but also cut through the richness of the mozzarella. Pinot Grigio can do that, especially this example from Italy’s Friuli region, which is a fine and precise white wine.