Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (2024)

Why It Works

  • Crisp, bitter puntarelle pairs well with anchovies and garlic, mellowing their intense flavor.
  • If puntarelle is hard to find, endive is a great substitute.
  • Soaking thinly-sliced strips of puntarelle or endive in ice water for a few hours forms spiraled curlicues.

For someone that is as obsessed with Italian cuisine as I am (by which I mean: a lot), I have only been to Italy but one time, for a mere 10 days one November awhile ago. But I packed a lot of eating into that one short trip, including tasting and falling in love with puntarelle alla Romana for the first time, then proceeding to order it daily the rest of the time I was in Rome. (Late autumn is the beginning of puntarelle season in Italy, which runs from October to April.)

Puntarelle salad is made by tossing crisp, juicy shreds of the mostly mild-mannered bitter green with a potent anchovy- and garlic-heavy dressing. The flavor of the salad is intense, no doubt, but, paradoxically, the texture and flavor of the puntarelle sands most of the edge off the garlic and anchovies, making it potent, but entirely pleasant. Case in point: My Midwest-raised wife does not care for salty, intense things like anchovies, olives, or capers, and yet even she loves this salad. It might seem like a strange dish to obsess over, but I love it madly, and I know I’m not the only one.

Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (1)

From a distance, heads of puntarelle look a lot like other members of the chicory family they belong to, with a crown of long, slender, serrated leaves, with pale white ribs and deep green dandelion-like fringes, not unlike escarole. But these outer leaves conceal a bizarre surprise within: a gnarled cluster of pale green asparagus-like shoots, oftentimes knotted around one another like a freaky, many-fingered fist. (The shoots’ vague resemblance to asparagus explains why another name for puntarelle in Italian is cicoria asparago, or “asparagus chicory.”)

While the heart of puntarelle is sometimes braised, it is most commonly served raw, either as individual spears on an antipasto platter, or in the aforementioned salad. For the salad, the shoots are sliced into fine, long shreds with a knife, or, better yet, using a dedicated puntarelle cutter made from a series of gridded metal wires strung tautly across a wooden frame, which makes quick work of it. The shreds are then placed in a bowl of ice water for an hour or two, after which they form elegant, spiraled curlicues. (Produce stands and supermarkets in Italy sell pre-shredded and pre-curled puntarelle, eliminating the work entirely.) After that, the curls are tossed with a dressing made from olive oil, red wine vinegar, loads of pounded garlic and anchovies, herbs, and other salty, cured things like chopped olives or capers.

Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (2)

When I came home from Italy, I looked high and low in my local farmer’s markets and specialty stores, but it seemed that nobody here in the Boston area grew puntarelle. Nor was it the sort of thing that showed up as an import from elsewhere, so my brief, passionate love affair came to an abrupt and well, bitter, end. (Puntarelle does show up in bigger markets like New York City and Los Angeles, so those of you living in places like that are fortunate enough to sustain an ongoing relationship with the vegetable.)

Until I decided I could live with a stand-in for the puntarelle, that is. While it doesn’t really resemble the vegetable, at least in its native form, its fellow chicory-cousin endive actually does make a pretty great substitute. Not only does it have a similar crisp-juicy texture and a mild-but-piquant bitterness, but—as I discovered after experimenting with it a bit—it also curls nicely when cut into shreds and iced down for awhile! It’s not the same, by any means: Its texture is a bit more starchy-fibrous than that of puntarelle, and it doesn’t curl quite as dramatically. But it scratches the same itch for me, and I make it all the time.

Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (3)

The method is the same as described above, with a few differences owing to the substitution. For starters, I like to use a mixture of white (Belgian) endive and red endive, which resembles white endive in form and flavor, except streaked red like the treviso—another chicory that has red-and-white variegated leaves like radicchio—it has been crossed with. (My local Trader Joe’s sells a mix of white and red in small packages.) To prep it, you quarter the heads without removing the core. You then slice each quarter lengthwise through the core into 1/4-inch-wide pieces. Leaving the core attached lets the pieces form frilly florets that curl chaotically when placed in ice water, giving them a bit more of a puntarelle-like appearance.

If you can get your hands on actual puntarelle, by all means swap it out for the imposter here. Once in a blue moon, I’ve been able to procure the real deal myself, and it was as good as I remembered when made with this recipe. Either way, it'll do until the day we can both get back to Rome again.

Recipe Details

Puntarelle Alla Romana (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing)

Prep10 mins

Soaking Time2 hrs

Total2 hrs 10 mins

Serves4to 6 servings


  • 20 ounces (570g) puntarelle (1 to 2 heads) or Belgian endive (8 to 10 heads; a mix of white and red if available), trimmed (see note)

  • 8 oil-packed anchovies, drained (32g)

  • 2 medium garlic cloves (10g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste; for table salt, use half as much by volume

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) red wine vinegar

  • 5 tablespoons (75ml)extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup (20g) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • 3 tablespoons (45g) capers, drained and roughly chopped

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pluck the outer leaves off the heads of puntarelle, tear or cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Remove the shoots from the heads and, if present, trim and discard the woody bottom end of each. Cut shoots into 1/4-inch-thick strips (you may need to halve or quarter them lengthwise first). If there’s a fatter core, trim off the tougher base, cut it in half lengthwise, and then cut the halves into strips.

    Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (5)

  2. Alternatively, if using endive, quarter endive lengthwise without removing cores. Slice each quarter into 1/8-inch strips lengthwise, at an angle through core, so leaves remain attached.

    Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (6)

  3. Transfer prepared puntarelle or endive to a bowl and cover fully with cold water and a handful of ice cubes. Cover with a small plate or other similar object to keep pieces submerged. Refrigerate until curled, at least 2 hours (they may remain submerged for up to 18 hours).

    Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (7)

  4. Drain puntarelle or endive and dry in a salad spinner. Refrigerate until needed.

    Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (8)

  5. Meanwhile, place anchovies, garlic, and salt on a cutting board and mash with the back of a fork until a coarse paste forms. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add vinegar and whisk until uniform. Add oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until emulsified.

    Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (9)

  6. Add puntarelle or endive, parsley, and half of the capers to bowl and toss to coat with dressing. Season with pepper and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving platter, top with remaining capers, and serve.

    Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (10)

Special Equipment

salad spinner


Some supermarkets sell heads of red endive, which is actually a cross between endive and treviso. (Trader Joe’s sells them in mixed packs.) Use a mix of both if you can find them for a splash of color.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Once soaked, drained, and spun dry, endive or puntarelle will keep for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

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Puntarelle Alla Romana Recipe (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing) (2024)


What is puntarelle in english? ›

Meaning of puntarelle in English

a type of chicory (= a plant with pale, bitter leaves that are eaten cooked as a vegetable or in salads): Puntarelle is a feathery, weedy type of Italian chicory.

Can you eat puntarelle raw? ›

They are rich in vitamin A, calcium and phosphor and have beneficial depurative, digestive and diuretic properties. The best way to enjoy the benefits of this vegetable is to eat Puntarelle raw – when cooked, in fact, they lose most of their beneficial properties.

What is similar to puntarelle? ›

If puntarelle is hard to find, endive is a great substitute. Soaking thinly-sliced strips of puntarelle or endive in ice water for a few hours forms spiraled curlicues.

What is the season for puntarelle? ›

Category. A member of the genus Cichorium (an extensive clan that also includes endive and radicchio), puntarelle comes into season in November and stays around through February.

Is puntarelle good for you? ›

Puntarelle are rich with minerals, and this makes them very beneficial to our diuretic and digestion system, especially if eaten raw.

How do you eat a puntarelle? ›

Wash the puntarelle head and remove outer leaves. These leaves can be steamed and eaten as a side dish or added to a soup broth. We use the thick inner stalks for this salad.

What vegetable is puntarelle? ›

Puntarelle is a wonderful Italian green that belongs to the chicory family. It tastes something like a sharp endive with a hint of fennel. To the unknowing eye, mine, it looked strange, almost like a big weed.

Can you find puntarelle in the US? ›

Buy your favorite Puntarelle online with Instacart. Order Puntarelle from local and national retailers near you and enjoy on-demand, contactless delivery or pickup within 2 hours.

What can you do with puntarelle leaves? ›

The slender leaves must be boiled/steamed and can be eaten warm as a side dish, with a trickle of olive oil or ri-passate in padella – that is to say, sautéed in oil, garlic and peperoncino. It is the inner crunchy shoots though that is the real reason Italians buy puntarelle – they make one of the best winter salads.

How do you store puntarelle? ›

How to Store: Place Puntarelle in the crisper of your refrigerator wrapped in plastic. It should last about five to seven days in the refrigerator. How to Prepare: Always rinse your produce under cool water before using. Peel back and remove the leaves to reveal the shoots.

Is puntarelle bitter? ›

Puntarelle is a lightly bitter, unusual variety of chicory. Their shoots are hollow, and when prepared in thin strips, they offer a satisfying crunch.

Is chicory drink good for you? ›

Some studies have shown that chicory could improve bowel function and reduce constipation. It also contains inulin, which could promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

What kind of vegetable is chicory? ›

What is chicory? Also known as endive, chicory is a forced crop, grown in complete darkness, which accounts for its blanched white, yellow-tipped leaves. It has a distinctive, cigar-like shape, about 12cm long, and the crisp leaves have a mildly bitter flavour.

Is chicory a cabbage or lettuce? ›

Chicories tend to have a more assertive, and sometimes bitter, flavor that is not present in most lettuces. If you've ever mistakenly bought a head of radicchio thinking it was a cute, small red cabbage, you know exactly what I'm talking about here!

How do you eat Puntarella? ›

Punterelle can be eaten hot or cold but our favourite is the classic, served raw in a rich dressing of anchovies, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

What is puntarelle used for? ›

Puntarelle are a classic Roman appetizer found from November through April in every restaurant in the city center, as well as in outlying trattorias. They are served with anchovy and garlic dressing, or even with a pinch of chili pepper. Fresh and crunchy, this is an appetizer that wins everyone over.

Is puntarelle the same as chicory? ›

Puntarelle or cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago is a variant of chicory. The heads are characterized by an elongated shape (about 40–50 cm), light green stems and dandelion shaped leaves. 'Puntarelle' shoots have a pleasantly bitter taste.

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