Puntarelle Roman Italian ChicoryPuntarelle is a perennial herb grown in late winter. The ingredient is a point of Roman pride, and in fact, it’s also called Roman wild chicory. While it originated along the Italian coastline, it’s been naturalized all over the world.

Puntarelle’s base is creamy white and dense with thick white and green hollow shoots. The leaves have a serrated shape that comes out to a point. Puntarelle looks like white asparagus with the flavor of chicory and the texture of celery. It’s also said to have the spiciness of arugula with hints of fennel.

Puntarelle has long been regarded for its nutrient density because it’s high in iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Puntarelle: Common Preparations

The herb is wonderful paired with feta, olives, and cream-based dressings as well as forest mushrooms and Gorgonzola cheese–all ingredients that mellow out its bitter flavor. Other common preparations include serving raw Puntarelle with a vinaigrette made with lemon, olive oil, anchovies, garlic, and white wine vinegar.

To further mellow its bitterness, remove the green leaves from the stalks and shoots. Julienne or slice the stalks lengthwise and place in clean sink of cool acidulated water (water with a couple of squeezes of lemon). The leaves will curl and lose some of their bitterness. Spin gently in a salad spinner, and delicately roll in tea towels and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Add to raw salads or sauté in equal parts olive oil and butter, with minced garlic, lemon juice, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. You can also serve the greens wilted in a clear vegetable broth soup or even a white bean soup. Buon appetito!

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Image: Laura Klein