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Spaghetti with Radicchio and Bacon

The original version of this dish, developed by Venetian writer and gondola restorer Paolo Lanapoppi, is meatless, but this recipe includes bacon; its sweet, smoky flavor pairs so well with the pleasantly bitter radicchio and a generous dusting of freshly ground pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 7 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 lb. sliced bacon, cut into strips 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped  
  • 3/4 lb. Treviso radicchio, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large fry pan over medium-low heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the bacon and sauté until nicely colored and crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and bacon to paper towels to drain.

Discard all but 2 Tbs. of the fat in the pan, return the pan to medium-low heat and add the remaining 5 Tbs. olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened and lightly colored, about 6 minutes. Add the radicchio and stir and toss to coat it evenly with the oil. Add 3/4 cup hot water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the radicchio is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the sea salt, cover, remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large pot over high heat, bring 5 quarts water to a rapid boil. Check the package instructions for the cooking time, then add the kosher salt and pasta, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is 1 minute shy of being al dente.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce, set over high heat, and toss the pasta and the sauce together for about 1 minute to distribute all the ingredients evenly, adding a little of the cooking water if needed to moisten the sauce.

Divide the pasta among warmed shallow bowls and top with the bacon, garlic, parsley and plenty of pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book, by Julia della Croce (Weldon Owen, 2010).