Puntarelle: 5 mistakes not to be made
For us, who live in the north of Rome, the name “puntarelle” risks not saying much. Not only that, in the same way, many people have never even tasted them.
A real shame, because the mysterious puntarelle, protagonists in this first appointment of the weekend with the series “5 mistakes not to be made”, are tasty, with a flavor similar to the intense one of the artichoke but with a more delicate nuance, and are a concentrate of beneficial nutrients for the body.
Rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, the puntarelle have only 15 calories per hectogram, they are diuretic, purifying, and thanks to their high content of unulin – a vegetable fiber – they help digestion, regulating the intestine with a light laxative action.
Then, after all, they are not so mysterious. The protagonists of many popular dishes in Rome, Lazio, Puglia and Campania, where they are eaten in salads, with a little oil, garlic and some anchovy fillets, are nothing more than crunchy and water-rich sprouts which form at the center of a variety of chicory called catalonia chicory (in Rome “cicorione”).
But don’t think of buying the puntarelle ready to be eaten: you will have to sweat them, your puntarelle, and prepare them correctly, avoiding the most common mistakes.
1) Don’t cut them right
As mentioned, the puntarelle are not already ready on the market stalls: you will have to get them from a head of Catalonian chicory.
In Rome, a special tool is used, the cutter, but you can do this: remove the external green leaves, take the central white shoots and begin to “fillet” them, an indispensable operation to give the classic puntarelle the curled shape.
Filleting is obtained by cutting each shoot in two in the longitudinal direction, and then cutting it again to obtain strips, about a dozen per shoot.
2) Do not soak them
Once filleted, the sprouts must be placed in a cold water bath to which ice can be added, for about an hour or two, but also overnight, in the refrigerator.
It not only serves to soften them and remove excess bitterness, but also to make them curl taking the characteristic shape: the simple shoots have turned into puntarelle.
3) Discard the green leaves
Sprouts are fine, but it is not that now we have to throw away all the good things of leaves that we have removed (and paid).
Indeed, these, once cooked, will be an excellent ingredient for soups, soups and savory pies: you cannot throw away puntarelle!
4) Cook them (except for pasta)
Cooking the puntarelle is not a real mistake, but it is certainly a shame: the heat, in fact, destroys part of their precious nutrients, those sensitive to heat, like some B vitamins.
But if you really can’t resist the urge to cook them, then do it to season the pasta; the bitter taste does justice to some typical southern recipes such as underwire macaroni.
And keep the boiling water. Of course, heat-degradable components, like some vitamins, will be gone, but others, like mineral salts, will remain. Then use the water for soups and soups.
5) Ignore the few contraindications
Of course, puntarelle are good and healthy for everyone, but they contain a good dose of inulin, a utero-stimulating vegetable fiber. They should be carefully consumed during pregnancy.
For the same reason they are to be consumed with caution by those suffering from intestinal colic or in case of gallstones, due to their cholagogue action (that is, which stimulates the contraction of the gallbladder by promoting the emptying of bile).
Apart from these precautions, the puntarelle are a good reason to immediately run to the market to buy a nice head of Catalonian chicory: now, you know what to do with it.
And the recipe for the famous Roman puntarelle?
Nothing could be simpler: for about half a kilo of already cleaned puntarelle, just take 2 or 3 anchovy fillets, chop them in a bowl together with one or two cloves of garlic – either finely chopped or “squeezed” with the appropriate tool – add a couple of spoons of white vinegar, extra virgin olive oil to taste, salt and on.
Puntarelle: 5 mistakes not to be made