This variety of radicchio, which twenty years ago was granted PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status, boasts a centuries-old tradition. In was already popular in the late 1700s, when it dotted the so-called “broili” or town orchards, but even before then, it could be easily found in the hilly environs of Verona, growing in orchards and vineyards between the rows of fruit trees and vines. At that time it was simply called “red chicory”.
Its official name however is Radicchio Rosso di Verona: its leaves are oblong in shape, and grow in small, tightly packed heads. What is most typical of this variety is the colour of its leaves, which are a deep crimson, with a large white central rib. There are two cultivars of Verona radicchio, an early and a late one, both of which are cultivated in the southern part of the Veneto region, known as the Bassa.
For this reason Verona radicchio is often referred to as “The red gold of the Bassa”. It stands out among all other varieties of chicory for the pleasant crispness of its leaves, their deep colour and slightly bitter flavour. Verona radicchio is an extremely versatile ingredient, both raw and cooked, and many are the dishes in which it stars, from appetizers to desserts.
Following is a recipe for a spread that can be served on toasted bread, to make a delightful appetizer or snack.
200 g Radicchio rosso di Verona
50 g grated Parmesan cheese
50 g extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
slices of toasted bread
Wash the radicchio well, removing all dead leaves and traces of grit. Shred thinly, add the chopped walnuts and grated parmesan, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and mix all the ingredients together. Serve on slices of toasted bread.
Recipe courtesy of the cultural association “La cucina di casa”.