Radicchio All’aceto Balsamico e Pancetta Croccante

Radicchio with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Pancetta

Balsamic vinegar, because it has been mellowed by years of aging in wood casks, is not highly acidic and therefore does not overpower a glass of fine wine. Here, heads of radicchio are blanched ahead of time, then put under the broiler or baked in a hot oven, where they are basted with a little olive oil mixed with an aged balsamic. They can be served at this point, or they can be dressed with a warm vinaigrette con pancetta croccante, as they are at Enoteca La Dispensa near Mantua, in Lombardy. Sometimes the baked radicchio is wrapped in prosciutto and dressed with balsamic vinegar, which is the case at the Osteria del Vicolo Nuovo in Imola, in Emilia-Romagna, and at the Enoteca Frascati, in the wine region outside of Rome.

Ingredients

  • 4 small heads radicchio
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

vinaigrette

  • 5 ounces pancetta, sliced ¼ inch thick, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch-wide strips
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the broiler.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the radicchio into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Push them under the water, as they have a tendency to bounce up. Drain well and squeeze out excess moisture carefully. If they are large, cut them in half lengthwise.

In a small cup, whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Place the radicchio on a broiler pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush with some of the olive oil and vinegar. Broil for 3 minutes, then turn and brush with more oil and vinegar and broil for 3 minutes longer. The radicchio should be golden and tender. Arrange on a platter and keep warm.

To make the vinaigrette, cook the pancetta in a small saucepan or sauté pan over medium heat until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Spoon this over the cooked radicchio. Serve hot.