Radicchio pasticcio (Italian chicory lasagna); Recipe from Veneto.
This radicchio pasticcio is a delicious traditional vegetarian lasagna from Veneto, Northern Italy. Made with Italian chicory, pasta, shallots, béchamel and cheese, it comes together easily and tastes wonderful!
Pasticcio di Radicchio.
Here in Veneto, Northern Italy, baked pasta dishes made with flat lasagne sheets are often called pasticcio. In fact, when I first came to live here, I found it rather confusing! What not lasagna? However, most often these are made with local seasonal ingredients such as asparagus, mushrooms or, like this recipe, radicchio plus béchamel. Radicchio pasticcio is probably the most loved of these local dishes!
Lasagne or pasticcio?
In reality, there seems to be some confusion between the terms ‘lasagne al forno’ and ‘pasticcio’ even among Italians. Lasagne al forno (also known as lasagna outside of Italy) originates from Bologna and is the most well-known type of lasagna. It’s made with Bolognese sauce. However, there are many lasagne al forno recipes made with other ingredients, like this poached salmon and asparagus lasagne al forno.
On the other hand; some Italians, especially in the South, use the name ‘pasticcio’ to refer to other types of baked pasta dishes. Interestingly, the word ‘pasticcio’, literally means ‘mess’! I guess this is most probably due to the fact that the ingredients in a ‘pasticcio’ are not normally separated or layered (except in Veneto!). Everything is mixed together and baked in the oven. In Southern Italy, a pasticcio is often encased in or covered with pastry. This type of baked pasta is also called a timballo.
The Greeks have a well-loved dish called pasticcio/pastitsio which is baked pasta with meat and sauce. In all likelihood, the Greek name came from the Veneto name, as the old Republic of Venice ruled the Greek Ionian islands from the mid-14th century to the late 18th century. Interestingly, the Italian word ‘lasagna’ comes from the Greek word ‘laganon’.
Whether you think of this recipe as a pasticcio, a lasagna or a lasagne al forno, it’s a delicious vegetarian baked pasta recipe. It’s also pretty easy to make. The main ingredient, apart from the pasta sheets, is radicchio also called Italian chicory.
Radicchio is a leafy chicory which has been grown here in Italy since the 1600s. It’s very popular here in Veneto, as well as, Trentino and Friuli Venezia Giulia. There are different types of radicchio. Among the most common is ‘radicchio di Treviso’ which looks like Belgian endive. That’s the type I used for this radicchio pasticcio. Also widely used here are ‘radicchio di Chioggia’ which is round and looks a bit like a purple cabbage and ‘Tardivo’ radicchio, which resembles flowers. Italians use a lot of radicchio in salads. But, they also cook it in risotto and with pasta, like in this radicchio pasticcio recipe.
In addition to the radicchio, this pasticcio contains just some shallots, a homemade béchamel, grated Parmesan and another local cheese called taleggio. Taleggio is a soft cow’s milk washed-rind cheese with an interesting, pungent and aromatic taste. It is normally ripened for about 40 days. This is a very ancient cheese that originally comes from the Taleggio valley near Bergamo. It was, apparently, first made there in the 10th century!! Taleggio is eaten on its own or used in cooking. It melts really well and is great in a risotto or with polenta. Instead of taleggio, which may be difficult to find outside of Italy, you can use brie, scamorza, robiola or fontina.
I didn’t make my own lasagne sheets for this recipe but bought ready-made fresh ones from Giovanni Rana. This company makes extra thin lasagne sheets so you don’t need to precook them! However, if you can’t find fresh pasta and don’t want to make your own, dried is fine. You will need to blanch the pasta sheets in boiling salted water before assembling your radicchio pasticcio. If you want to try your hand at making your own lasagne sheets have a look at the recipe.
Since this radicchio pasticcio (Italian chicory lasagna) has only a few ingredients it doesn’t take long to prepare. To speed things up you can use ready-made béchamel! I made my own. Even so, it didn’t take that long to have this baked pasta on the table. However, despite it being easy it’s seriously delicious. I’m sure you’ll agree with me if you try it.
Let me know what you think.
If you make this radicchio pasticcio (Italian chicory lasagna) recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. So, please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Other radicchio recipes to check out here on The Pasta Project!
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A delicious traditional vegetarian lasagna from Veneto, Northern Italy. Made with Italian chicory, pasta, shallots, béchamel and cheese, it comes together easily and tastes wonderful!
- 250 g lasagne (lasagna) (9oz) fresh or dried
- 2 shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 700 g radicchio (Italian chicory) (24oz) I used 2 Treviso radicchio but you can use the round one as well
- 200 g taleggio cheese (7oz) or brie, fontina, robiola or scamorza
- 90 g Parmesan or Grana (3 oz) grated
- salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 40 g butter (1.4 oz)
- 40 g all purpose flour (1.4 oz)
- 500 ml milk (17 floz)
- 1-2 pinch nutmeg grated
Peel and finely chop the shallots. cut the taleggio cheese into cubes. Wash the radicchio and cut it into thin strips.
In a frying pan or iron skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil. Cook the peeled and finely chopped shallots until they start to soften. Add the radicchio and cook for 10-15 minutes over a very gentle heat. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Put the butter in a pan over a low heat, melt it, add the flour and mix until it forms a thick paste (roux). Then, remove it from the heat. At this point, slowly add the milk and stir continuously to dissolve the roux without making lumps. Put the pan on a moderate heat and keep stirring constantly until it starts to simmer and thicken.
Lower the flame. Wait a couple of minutes. Then, turn it off, add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg, mix it again for a few minutes and then allow it to cool to thicken it further.
In a large bowl combine the radicchio, half the grated cheese and the béchamel sauce, mix well and, if necessary, add salt.
If using dried pasta you will need to bring a pot of bailing salted water to a boil and then blanch the pasta sheets individually. Place them spread apart on a tea towel. Don't allow them to stick together.
Put a layer of lasagne sheets on the bottom of a greased oven dish. Cover it with a couple of ladles of the béchamel and radicchio mix. Distribute some of the Taleggio cheese pieces onto the radicchio sauce. Sprinkle a little Parmesan or Grana Padano. Then cover with another layer of lasagne. Continue until the ingredients have been used up, ending with a thin layer of radicchio sauce. Sprinkle again with grated cheese and add a few pieces of taleggio. Bake at 180 degrees.
Cook for the first 10 minutes covered with aluminum foil and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes uncovered (until the cheese on top is golden). Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and serve.
This is one of the simplest versions of this traditional recipe. Some people also add fried speck or pancetta or walnuts or gorgonzola, instead of soft white cheese. All these additions make for a really tasty lasagna too!
Instead of taleggio, which may be difficult to find outside of Italy, you can use brie, scamorza, robiola or fontina.