Spaghetti with radicchio
Bitter is not a comfortable word – certainly not when it comes to food. Despite the reappearance of negronis on cocktail menus and radicchio in restaurants, bitter is not a flavour most want to introduce into our own cooking. But I think of it as I would spicy or salty foods. Too much can derail a dish but, balanced with other flavours, bitter can be that triumphant, missing piece of the puzzle. Bittersweet, you could say.
Bitter orange salad dressing A favourite dressing for salads and roast vegetables.
Mix all the ingredients together and taste, adding more salt, orange juice and oil as needed, until the dressing tastes good. Test by dipping a salad leaf in – the water of the leaf will dilute the dressing, giving a truer sense of the flavour.
Spaghetti with radicchio, fennel and rosemary This is as offbeat as pasta recipes get, but it is one of my favourite bowlfuls. It hits all the flavour and texture notes without too much work.
Toast the walnuts in a pan for a few minutes, until golden, then bash them in a mortar with the garlic and a good pinch of sea salt until you have a thick paste.
Add the herbs and bash again, then add 70ml of the oil and mix the whole lot together to form a deep-green pesto slick. Taste and season with a bit more salt and pepper, if needed.
Make the dressing: in a big bowl, mix the balsamic, chilli, garlic, orange zest and the extra tablespoon of oil.
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, cook to packet instructions (until al dente), then drain, reserving a little of the cooking water for later.
As the pasta cooks, heat a griddle pan and grill the radicchio until charred on one side only, then toss in the dressing while it is still hot. Once the leaves are cool enough to handle, shred roughly.
Put the drained pasta back into the pan, add some of the pesto and mix well. Add enough cooking water to loosen to a creamy sauce, then add the shredded radicchio and serve with lots of grated cheese.