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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


When I come to Rome in the winter I seek out puntarelle like a mad woman. Bags of pre-sliced and pre-soaked curls are available at the market for 6 Euros a bag. (This is a deal trust me.) When I found out how much work went in to preparing the puntarelle for a salad, I gladly paid the 6 Euros. This unique member of the chicory family makes one of my favorite salads/side dishes ever.

Puntarelle are found in Rome in the winter season from December to March. I have not seen them readily available anywhere else in Italy. (From my limited experience, I mean Piemonte, Toscana and parts of Lombardia.)

To prepare the puntarelle you must VERY thinly slice the spears lengthwise, and set into a large quantity of cold water for up to four hours. This causes the thin strips to curl up. The crispy curls are served raw, dressed with olive oil, vinegar, garlic and minced anchovies. I use lemon instead of vinegar and in some establishments, the acid is not used at all. This site has a photo of the plant itself. If you ever come to Rome in wintertime, do yourself a favor and order a serving of this slightly bitter yet wonderfully crunchy and tender salad.

Update: Deme kept telling me that puntarelle is very uncommon outside Rome but today on a short walk in the neighborhood, I found some. I set out to prepare some for dinner pronto!

Here is the whole puntarelle, it looks like a bunch of celery with dark green leaves.

Deme showed me how to slice the spears, which I then placed in cold, cold water. After I finished the work, I placed the whole bowl in the refrigerator to soak even more. It may take up to 4 hours to "curl up".

And of course here is the finished product. Yummy!

Puntarelle Salad
Serves 2-4 people

1 head of puntarelle, sliced thinly, soaked in cold water until very curly
2 cloves of garlic
5-8 anchovy fillets
juice of half a lemon
fresh ground pepper
good olive oil

1. Add all the ingredients together in a blender and blend until smooth or
add all the ingredients and blend with a hand stick blender. To make it the traditional way, mash garlic and anchovy in a mortar and pestle, the stir in oil and lemon juice.

2. Dress the salad and let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Enjoy!

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At 10:16 AM, Blogger A Novelist said...

I have never heard of Puntarelle but it looks light and delicious. I'll have to see if I can find them in the states at an Italian market or something. Thanks for the new idea. :)

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Typesetter said...

In Milnao it's not even that easy to find purntarelle at all. being an heretic, I like to serve them in a salsad that includes wery thinly sliced carrots and fennell, apart from the traiditional way. I like the way the sweet and the bitter constrast.

At 11:58 PM, Blogger Eulinx said...

Punterelle is a tipical roman salad, so you are right, it is very hard to find them elsewhere.
A lot of people who don't live in rome don't even know them.

At 2:37 AM, Blogger a.c.t said...

I've never heard of puntarelle before and I claim to know a lot about food!! I'll look out for them next time I'm in Italy.

At 3:07 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

There are many, many things that even Italians living in Italy are not familiar with. Unless you've traveled to all the regions of Italy, you are going to find something new. This is one of the great things about this country. I love discovering new foods.

At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Never seen this before.


At 3:37 AM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

I wouldn't say they are readily available here in Le Marche, but they are definitely findable. We love them in the salad--a restaurant in town introduced us to the idea, and we have it every time we see it!


At 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to know where you got those pictures, and if I could use them in an article?




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