Ancient man consumed radicchio for its medicinal properties as a blood purifier and an aid for insomnia. Pliny, a Roman author and philosopher, mentions the red-lined lettuces of the Veneto region in his Naturalis Historia, noting that in addition to being tasty, they’re good for insomnia and purifying the blood. He also says, it was the Egyptians who bred radicchio from its more wild ancestor, chicory. In the Middle Ages it was especially popular among monks, who welcomed anything that would add zest and flavor to their simple vegetarian diets prescribed by their orders. Not that the plant was limited to monastic kitchens; it also figured prominently on the tables of nobles, both cooked and raw. In 1537 Pietro Aretino advised a friend, who had a garden, to plant radicchio, saying he much preferred it to “aroma-free lettuce and endive.”

The radicchio from that era isn’t the radicchio rosso we know today. The modern radicchio with its rich wine-red white-ribbed leaves was developed in the 1860’s by Francesco Van Den Borre, a Belgian agronomist, who applied the techniques used to whiten Belgian endive to the radicchio plants grown around Treviso. The process, which is called imbianchimento, is quite involved: the plants are harvested in late fall, their outer leaves are trimmed and discarded, and they are packed into wire mesh baskets where they stand for several days in darkened sheds with their roots bathed in steadily circulating spring water that emerges from the ground at a temperature of about 60 degrees F. As they bathe, the leaves of the hearts of the radicchio plants take on the pronounced wine-red color that distinguishes them (the deeper the red, the more bitter the plant). At this point the farmer unties the bunches, strips away the outer leaves, trims the root and sends the radicchio to the market.

Modern cultivation of the plant began in the fifteenth century in the Veneto region of Italy. The varieties of radicchio are named after the Italian regions where they originated. Radicchio farmers in the Veneto region have sought to have Protected Geographical Status applied to the names of these radicchio varieties to keep them tied to their original growing regions.

Chioggia is the most common variety grown and identified in the United States with its maroon, round, grapefruit-size heads. Radicchio Rosso di Chioggia was bred from the Variegato and, while it has dark red leaves with white ribs, it is more round than the Radicchio di Treviso. It’s also compact and, as a result, it resembles a head of cabbage in shape. It’s now the most commonly grown radicchio rosso in Italy.

Treviso is an elongated version of radicchio resembling a large Belgian endive or a red romaine heart. Radicchio Rosso di Treviso comes in two varieties: Precoce, which has fleshy red leaves with white ribs that form a compact bunch and Tardivo, which has more pronounced ribs and splayed leaves. As you might guess, Precoce comes into season first  and, although it is prettier to look at, the Tardivo is more flavorful, with stronger bitter accents. Both Precoce and Tardico now enjoy IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status, which means that they can only be sold as such, if they are produced around Treviso, under the supervision of the Consorzio Radicchio di Treviso.

Tardivo and Castelfranco resemble flowers and are only available in winter months. Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco also enjoys IGP status. It looks more like a traditional head of lettuce but has deep wine-red stripes, and is also known as the Edible Flower. It’s a cross between radicchio and a round-headed endive.


Radicchio, like most vegetables, is seasonal. It appears in the markets in late November and remains throughout the winter. It is tastiest after the frosts begin. It has also been introduced and is grown in California’s Napa Valley. Radicchio is quite popular in Italy and is gaining popularity in the United States for its versatility and nutrition.

It is also good for you! Radicchio’s bitterness is due to intybin, which stimulates the appetite and digestive system. Radicchio is high in antioxidants, loaded with fiber and contains high levels of Vitamins B, C, and K.

When you bring radicchio home from the market, put it in the crisper section of your refrigerator. It will keep for a couple of days and, if it looks slightly wilted, stand it in a glass of water — the tap root has nutrients that feed the leaves and can absorb water. I found that all greens survive longer in the refrigerator, if I wrap them, individually, in paper towels and place them in a ziplock plastic bag.  My lettuce lasts a good two weeks with this method.

As An Appetizer

Radicchio and Arugula Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing and Burrata Crostini

Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture.


  • 1/2 small yellow or red bell pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4-inch-thick baguette slices
  • 3 ounces fresh burrata cheese
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely torn radicchio
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves


Char bell pepper half directly over gas flame or in broiler until skin is blackened. Enclose in paper bag for 10 minutes. Peel and seed bell pepper half; place in a mini processor. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil; puree until smooth. Transfer pepper mixture to small bowl; whisk in 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, capers, shallot, and sugar. Season dressing with salt and black pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature and whisk before using.

Toast baguette slices; brush with olive oil. Top each toast with half of the burrata cheese; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Combine arugula, radicchio, and parsley in medium bowl; toss with half of dressing. Divide salad between plates. Place 1 toast alongside each salad; drizzle with the remaining dressing.

As A First Course

Radicchio Salad With Green Olive Dressing


  • 1 head radicchio
  • 18 green olives
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish


Trim radicchio and cut or tear into bite-size pieces. Put radicchio in a large salad bowl.

Mince olives and garlic into a paste and then mix with oil, vinegar or lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can also do this in a blender, if you like.)

Toss radicchio with the dressing. Serve topped with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.

Linguine with Leeks, Radicchio, and Walnut Pesto


  • 8 ounces linguine
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups thinly sliced leeks (including the light green parts)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus shaved Parmesan for garnish
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (about 1 ounce) plus additional for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups thinly sliced radicchio


Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add leeks; season with salt and pepper. Cover; cook until tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Puree parsley, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/4 cup walnuts, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons oil in mini processor until a coarse puree forms. Season pesto with salt and pepper.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta, pesto, and radicchio to leeks; toss, adding cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls until the sauce is the consistency you like. Garnish with walnuts and shaved Parmesan.


As A Side Dish

Roasted Radicchio

Roasting the radicchio mellows its slightly bitter flavor; balsamic vinegar adds a touch of sweetness. You can use either of the popular varieties of radicchio — round Verona Chioggia or slender Treviso — in this recipe, since they both yield delicious results. Serves 4


  • 2 medium heads radicchio, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put radicchio wedges on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat, and turn each wedge so a cut side faces baking sheet. Roast, turning once, until leaves are wilted and slightly charred, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter.

Just before serving, drizzle vinegar over each wedge and garnish with cheese shavings.

As A Second Course

Beef Steak with Radicchio and Gorgonzola

Serves 4-6


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, gently smashed and peeled
  • 2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

FOR RADICCHIO: In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add radicchio, shallot and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until radicchio is wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add cheese and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to a bowl; remove and discard garlic. Wipe out skillet.


  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 boneless rib eye steaks, about 1 pound each and 1 1/2 inches thick, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

FOR STEAK: On a cutting board, spread peppercorns in a single layer. Using underside of a small heavy skillet, firmly press peppercorns in a rocking motion to coarsely crush. Rub peppercorns into both sides of steaks, then season with salt.

Using same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter over high heat. Cook 1 steak, turning once, about 7 minutes total for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and cover loosely with foil. Wipe out skillet and repeat with remaining steak. Let steaks rest 10 minutes, then slice. Serve with radicchio.

Radicchio Stuffed Chicken Breast


  • 8 thinly sliced chicken breasts
  • 6 oz mascarpone cheese, plus extra for sauce, if needed
  • 8 whole leaves of radicchio 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Toothpicks


Dry chicken breasts on paper towels and lay each out on a piece of wax paper

Sprinkle salt and freshly ground black pepper on each breast.

Spread a tablespoon of cheese in the center of each breast, keeping cheese away from edges.

Then lay a slice of radicchio on each breast.

Begin rolling breast from the narrow tip. This way you have more coverage when you finish the roll and insert the toothpicks (2 for each breast).

Once each roll is complete, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick pan on medium heat.

Place chicken rolls in pan and brown on one side.

After a few minutes, check underside. Once well browned, turn rolls over and brown again.

After approximately 5 minutes, add white wine, cover and let rolls simmer. Some of the cheese will have melted out and mix with the wine and chicken juices to create a thick white sauce. If not, add a tablespoon of cheese to the simmering wine.

Tilt pan and spoon sauce on top of chicken rolls. Repeat. Let simmer. Remove chicken after about 5 more minutes.

Serve over rice.