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Puntarelle alla Romana is a classic Roman dish, they are shoots from the chicory family called Cicoria Catalogna. They are crunchy and have a bitter flavour. They are cut very thin and seasoned with garlic, anchovies and vinegar.
Where to find Puntarelle
Puntarelle are grown around Rome and in some areas of the South of Italy. Earlier it is was a very localized dish, but now you can find them in many more farmer markets even in the North of Italy.
They are not easy to find here in France, I have to go to the farmer market in Ventimiglia or to a specialized Italian market in the Riviera.
If you cannot find them you can replace them with endives.
I found many more unusual Italian vegetables during my trip to Ventimiglia market and you can watch the video here.
When are Puntarelle in Season
They are usually in season from February till May, but you can now find them as early as October.
When you buy them, make sure they are fresh and that the outside leaves are strong and green.
To make Puntarelle alla Romana salad you will only use the shoots inside the vegetable head. You can use the outside leaves for minestrone or soup.
Cut the shoots very thinly and immerse them in iced water. This bath will make them curl (2), giving the typical curly look of the Puntarelle. Make sure the shoots are long enough otherwise they will remain straight (1).
How to clean the Puntarelle
- Remove the outside leaves
- Take the shoots and cut them in thin strings
- Leave them to rest in iced water until they curl
- Rince, serve them in a salad bowl and season with the anchovy vinaigrette
How to make the anchovy dressing vinaigrette
The Puntarelle are seasoned with an Anchovie vinaigrette, it is a perfect contrast to their slightly bitter taste.
Make the anchovy dressing with:
- half clove of garlic
- extra virgin olive oil
- white or red vinegar
- Put all the above ingredients into a blender
- Mix until you have a nice smooth creamy sauce
I prefer to use the anchovies preserved in salt rather than oil because I like to add my own extra virgin olive oil. The oil they used to preserve it could not be of good quality.
This anchovy vinaigrette has a nice garlicky, fishy salty flavour which you can use as a dressing for any other salad.
What is EVOO oil
At first, I was very confused when I saw the name EVOO, then I realized that it is the short name for Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
But do you really know what Extra Virgin means?
Olive oil to be called Extra Virgin has to have specific characteristics.
“First cold-pressed olive oil” meaning:
- it is the oil extracted from the first pressing of the olive
- the olive pressing should be mechanic and at temperatures not above 27 C – 80 F
- acidity level should be below 0.8% per 100 g (3.5 oz)
A simple virgin olive oil has an acidity limit of 2% per 100 g (3.5 oz) which is measured by instruments.
The quality of the extra virgin olive oil, instead, is based on organoleptic measurement which is done by experts tasting.
Difference between extra virgin olive oil and olive oil
Regular olive oil is extracted with chemical processes to eliminate organoleptic defects.
After this process the oil loses its color and taste, it is therefore mixed with extra virgin olive oil to give back the resemblance of olive oil.
The amount of extra virgin olive oil added is just the minimum necessary.
Using a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil is very important, it can completely change the flavor of any recipe.
I use extra virgin olive oil when I add it raw, but never use the virgin olive oil to make homemade mayonnaise, it just doesn’t work.
This chart created by ‘Jamie’s Italian’, beautifully describes the different types of olive oil, where it comes from and how professionals taste it.
The chart is very comprehensive in its explanation and description.
Storing extra virgin olive oil
Fortunately several of my relatives produce olive oil and every year my mother sends me 2.5 gallon – 10 liters. So I am always certain about the quality of my olive oil.
October is the month when olive oil is pressed, and we always wait for the new harvest to stock up for the year.
After 1 year the olive oil loses its flavor and increases in acidity, so we never buy more than 10 liters. If needed we buy more during the year.
Olive oil should be stored in a dark container which is light-resistant. That is why it is sold in cans or in greenish bottles.
Every week I pour the virgin olive oil into small bottles to bring it to the table.
Sometimes I flavor it with hot chili or infuse garlic or herbs. However, I use it within 2 days or add some lemon to prevent the risk of botulism (toxic bacterial).
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More Italian winter salads
Italian salads are always very simple, made with seasonal produce, “they” are the star of the plate.
Winter is the season for artichokes, oranges, puntarelle, fennels. So those are the salads you will find on an Italian table during the cold weather:
Recipes you might also like
For more vegetarian recipes, check out the category: Mediterranean Vegetables & Fruits
Also check the recipes below:
- Greek salad
- Easy Tabbouleh Recipe
- Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
- Potato Salad Mayonnaise
- Italian Rice Stuffed Tomatoes
- Nicoise Salad
- Grilled zucchini eggplants and peppers
- Easy Ratatouille Recipe Baked
- Easy Chanterelle Recipe With Potato
- Black Rice Recipe With Apple, Avocado And Carrots
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📋Puntarelle alla Romana
Making the anchovies vinaigrette
- In a small bowl blend the anchovies with the garlic, the extra virgin olive oil and the vinegar
Cleaning the puntarelle
- Remove the outer leaves of the puntarelle
- Cut the puntarelle into thin slices and put them in ice water to curl.
- Drain the puntarelle and place them on a serving bowl, add the anchovies vinaigrette adding some extra virgin olive oil
- Stir and serve
- Look for Puntarelle in a specialized Italian market or substitute with Endive
- Make sure they are fresh and that the outside leaves are strong and green
- Only use the shoots inside the vegetable head
- Make sure the shoots are long enough otherwise they will not curl
- Use the anchovies preserved in salt
- You do not need to add salt to the seasoning as the anchovies are already salted
- You can use as a dressing for any other salad.