Among many other culinary treasures, Treviso is celebrated for its radicchio. It does not look like the round heads of red radicchio Americans have been becoming familiar with, although it is also a part of the same large chicory family. Radicchio di Treviso has the elongated shape of romaine but is considerably more slender, and its leaves are a purplish red with white striations. It comes into season very late in the fall, and it is used more in cooking than raw in salads. Combined with smoked pancetta—which in the Veneto is more prevalent than the unsmoked kind—it makes one of the great pasta sauces.
To duplicate the sauce, I looked for a substitute for radicchio di Treviso, which, at least at the moment I am writing this, is still too rare in America, and, when available, too costly to consider for a sauce wherein it goes in such quantity. Belgian endive, another member of the chicory family, turned out to be a perfect replacement for both its flavor and cooking qualities. As for smoked pancetta, good-quality bacon is a nearly exact equivalent.
You may find the amount of endive you have to cook startling. Do not be alarmed. It has to cook down to a fraction of its volume until it is so soft it almost dissolves so that later it will cling on the pasta.
I like the flavor of egg pasta in this dish, and I have chosen tonnarelli in particular because their extra firmness makes such an agreeable connection with the creamy endive sauce. But you needn’t limit yourself to homemade pasta. Spaghetti, fusilli, or rigatoni will also work out well.
© 1986 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.