Puntarelle! Ever heard of them!?

I certainly never had before visiting Rome. But once you learn what these winter season delicious chicory family greens are, you'll have a hard time not spotting them as you tour through Rome in the winter and spring seasons.

In fact, it's almost confusing whether they are for show or to eat. Markets love to put puntarelle on display as they have a fun, bright, curly, green character and look so interesting to the eye. While in season you can count on endless displays of puntarelle in the markets ready to eat and a definite add to the contorni section of any Roman menu.

So what the heck are these things besides pretty?

Puntarelle are a type of chicory green that come in a bunch and have characteristic pointy ends to their shoots, hence why given the name puntarelle!  They are picked in a bunch similar to chicory, but have a thicker base and are less leafy. They have a crisp, bitter taste that you'll begin to crave after you try your first dish!

How to prepare them:

Lucky for you if you're shopping in Rome, it's very is to find puntarelle that have already been cleaned and turned into their curly little, delicious forkfuls, but in the event you can't find cleaned shoots, here is how to clean them.

  1. Peel off outer green leaves, then pull shoots apart from the base of the chicory, cut off just the very ends
  2. Using a type of wire tool, the individual shoots must then be cut into narrow strips. Run the shoot through a tagliapuntarelle, to achieve thin strips
  3. Soak strips of puntarelle in ice water for an hour so that they curl up nicely
  4. Strain the puntarelle and pat dry
Now you're puntarelle are ready to be dressed! You thankfully can almost always buy puntarelle prepared to this stage if you wish!

The dressing! Puntarelle in Rome are always prepared raw with a rich dressing:
  1. Mash 1 clove of garlic together with 4 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
  2. Add in 1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  3. Dice 2 anchovies, mash together with liquid (if you love love love anchovies, feel free to add more)
  4. Voila! Easy! Now toss over your strained, dried and curly puntarelle! Enjoy!