Radicchio Pesto

January 23, 2014

Radicchio Pesto

First things first, let’s do the name thing.
It’s radicchio as in Rick, not rich. The ‘CH’ is pronounced ‘CK’ (as the famous cologne); so ra-dee-ckyoh.
Radicchio is one of those foods I think of as very grown up.
It has moustaches, monocles and wanders around the apartment in a regimental dressing gown, with the New Yorker tucked under his arm, smoking a pipe and sipping bourbon.
Radicchio is upscale and sophisticated and looks down with contempt at the dull plebeian lettuce murmuring “We are not cut from the same cloth!”
In a way, snobbish radicchio has the right to say so because it is not, strictly speaking, a variety of lettuce.
It’s a member of the chicory family that comes in several varieties, with two types being most widely available in the United States: Treviso and Chioggia. Treviso leaves are oblong with pointed ends and grow in small, tightly packed heads. Chioggia instead grown in loosely packed round heads similar in shape to lettuce. Both varieties have purple leaves with white ribs.

Radicchio Pesto

As I kid I used to hate radicchio, just as I hated radishes or olives; it was probably due to its bitterness.
Like most, I learned to like it as I became adult and developed a taste for other bitter flavors (beer anyone?)
Turns out, radicchio is a health powerhouse.
It’s rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. It also has high amounts of antioxidants and plant phytonutrients. It is low in calories and is free of fats and cholesterol.
Last but not least, it has the word “RAD” in it; by far, its most significant feature.
Radicchio Pesto

Yesterday, I was debating what to do with the radicchio I had bought at the Farmers Market (over a pound). I then turned to my go-to recipe when I have too much of leafy greens (in this case purples): pesto.
“When in doubt, make pesto!” is one of my mottos.
Honestly, it doesn't matter if you're using basil, kale, baby spinach or arugula, pesto is ALWAYS the answer (and beats the pants off of any other sauce in my book).

Radicchio Pesto

I was not disappointed because this radicchio pesto completely hits the pesto mark.
It has a slightly bitter, savory flavor, and goes well with grilled vegetables, grilled chicken, or on pasta. I actually caught one of my roomies eating it by the spoonful, that good.
A final note. As per one of my reader’s suggestion (i.e., Sue, in the comments here); I tried Tinkyada GF spaghetti.
I was skeptical at first but turned out to be very good.
The pasta stays firm and does not get mushy; you can hardly tell the difference in texture from wheat pasta.
If you’re looking for gluten-free pasta, this is a solid option.

Radicchio Pesto
Radicchio Pesto                                                                                                   Print this recipe!

Serves 4

1 radicchio head, roughly chopped (ribs and leaves)
3 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup / 1.8 oz / 50 gr blanched almonds
5 tablespoons warm water, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil


Place the cut radicchio in a small bowl of cold water and allow to sit for 30 minutes. This will remove some of the bitterness. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. (Note: you can skip this step if you’re in a hurry).
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and toast for 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a food processor add (toasted) almonds; pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the radicchio and 2 tablespoons of water.
Pulse until the radicchio is broken up and nearly smooth.
Using a spatula, scrape down the sides.
Add Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, salt and pepper. Pulse again and while the food processor is running slowly add the water - one tablespoon at a time - until the pesto reaches a creamy consistency.
Transfer radicchio pesto to a bowl and using a spoon stir in the olive oil until it’s completely absorbed.
If the pesto looks too thick, add more olive oil (or water), one tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

Nutrition facts

One serving yields 165 calories, 15 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs and 6 grams of protein.


  1. My almond addiction will kill me one day - top notch pesto this is!

  2. Looks fantastic Mike! Pinned

  3. nailing it again, thanks! adding this to my list of to-make's

  4. Would love to try this one day!

  5. I'm making this tonight, can't wait.

  6. Interesting and intrigued. Very innovative, Pinned.

  7. Hi Mike,

    thanks for the nice pesto. I have tried no as well and have to say it is very good. I have also used this in my Blog - have made a link to your Blog as well if it is ok for you.

    br, Alex