Food, and gathering together at the table have an undeniable ability to create the greatest sense of comfort. Easy, unfussy food and a convivial attitude are the perfect catalysts to entice us to relax into the experience and linger at the table. When I dream of the perfect evening it is one full of the ebbs and flows of chatter and laugher over music, around a table laden with dishes and a distinctly unhurried feeling. Nothing brings me greater pleasure than seeing the table in the morning strewn with the odd dish or two and that new pair of taper candlesticks having all but burned away to tiny nubs.
The recipe below is one I have been making rather a lot lately, due in part to its ability to encourage a sense of comfort and invite us to linger at the table just a bit longer. The other reason for its successive appearance is that it includes moving the kitchen from the indoor ovens to the open fire of the outdoor grill. There is something about cooking over the open flame; it brings new flavor and possibility to ordinary foods. Grilling is also an excuse to stand outside, something I never miss to opportunity to do, with a glass of wine or the ubiquitous summer g & t in hand and enjoy the beauty of the season and the company of friends and family while you cook. It seems all the more social to cook on the grill, with people strolling up to chat and refresh drinks and take a turn maneuvering whatever is cooking over the flame. As the cook you can be in the center of the action as opposed to cordoned off away in the kitchen.
Finally I love this dish because it uses one of my favorite ingredients, radicchio. Grilling the radicchio, it’s as if it gives up its secret. Over the fire it transforms from a bitter stiff leaved chicory to something so much sweeter becoming supple and delicate . I am always amazed at how simply dressing it with a bit of salt and pepper and olive oil is so transformative when coupled with the grill. Even without pasta , the radicchio is worth making. It is lovely over a garlic white bean puree, or mixed in with simple greens for added texture. Its sweet smoky flavour also lend well to being smothered in chopped egg and drizzle with a bit of dressing and capers. I just love grilling up large deep red quarters of radicchio and watching as they turn to a beautiful deep plummy caramel.
Use a fresh egg pasta. Cook it until it is only just tender, you want it to retain its toothsomeness. Coupled with the tender smoky sweet radicchio and the richness from the olives and the brine from the anchovy this dish comes together in a way that is so satisfying I can only name it as true comfort food.
A little note on the olives and anchovies – if possible try to get cured olives rather than brined. they will be dark and wrinkly, not the prettiest, but their flavor is deep and dark and wont compete with the salt or brine of the anchovy. For the anchovy, I use the white fillets – they are brined rather than salt packed and have a fresh bright taste and do not require the same prep as the salt packed. I also love a tangy slice or two over a piece of baguette.
Egg fettuccine with Grilled Radicchio
- 1/2lb or 250g fresh egg fettuccine
- 1 medium head of radicchio
- 3 white anchovies (brine preferably)
- 1 Tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
- zest 1/2 lemon
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 Tbsp fresh chopped chives
- 1/2 cup cured black olives
- salt and pepper
Remove the outer leaves of the radicchio and trim the stem end. then cut the radicchio in half along the vertical and agin into quarters. you want to ensure that you have cut each wedge with a bit of the stem still on so that they hold together on the grill. Coat in olive oil then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and turn every few minutes until sides are beautifully charred and the radicchio is tender. aprox 6-8 minutes. Let stand until you are ready to serve
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil add 2-3 Tbsp salt and return to a boil
In a small saute pan warm 3 Tbsp olive oil and add the smashed garlic cloves stir until fragrant. Then add the chopped fresh rosemary and saute again until fragrant. Then add the anchovy filets and saute until slightly crisp, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon as you go. Remove from heat and discard garlic cloves. Then stir in the parsley and lemon zest. Let it stand-off the heat while you make the pasta.
Add your fettuccine to the boiling water. Stir and test after 1 minute for doneness. Depending upon the freshness of your pasta, it may take anywhere from 1 -5 minutes to cook. Be careful not to over cook. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
Then add it to the saute pan with the anchovy mixture, toss well to coat. If needed add a little of the cooking water, bit by bit, until the noodles are coated well and evenly in the mixture. Then stir through the olives and plate the pasta. Add grilled radicchio quarters to each plat and sprinkle with fresh chives and a good crack of fresh black pepper