My family moved to Illinois when I was 12 years old. We lived in a sub-division called Buffalo Grove, a tiny place which gradually expanded into a huge entity. We quickly became friends with a second generation Italian-American family across the street. I loved spaghetti and meatballs, along with lasagna and ravioli, the only Italian food I recognized, so it was a treat to eat at their house. One day my mother told me our new friends ate spaghetti in many different ways, even serving it mixed with peas. I was flabbergasted. Peas? I couldn't imagine such a thing. Of course, in time I came to love pasta combined with vegetables. I still love tomato sauce, but I'm more likely to cook pasta with vegetables, a bit of cheese, herbs, and olive oil. And I discovered that freshly shelled peas are marvelous tossed with good pasta and parmesan cheese.
I had no recipe in mind for fixing pasta today, but when I saw the radicchio and basil in the produce section, it was settled. I added toasted walnuts and feta cheese, as well. I knew the slightly bitter radicchio would go nicely with the bland pasta, salty feta, and crunchy walnuts. This radicchio was pricey and I wondered yet again why I don't grow it? If you don't like the bitter taste, soak the leaves in cold water for about ten minutes before you cook them.
Orecchiette With Radicchio, Feta Cheese, and Walnuts
Note: If you want to remove some of the bitter taste in the radicchio, soak the leaves in cold water for around 10 minutes before you slice them.
1 pound dry orecchiette or other pasta of your choice
radicchio--I used a head approximately the size of a small grapefruit. Use more or less as you wish
about 2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted for about 3-5 minutes in a hot skillet
4 ounces crumbled cheese--feta, Gorgonzola, goat cheese, Parmesan, etc. Your choice.
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
2 teaspoons of chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of the water the pasta was cooked in
salt and pepper
Boil water for the pasta, and salt it well. As the water comes to a boil, slice the radicchio. Add the oil to a hot skillet and cook the garlic and radicchio for about 2-3 minutes , until it has wilted some. Set aside. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it, then put it back in the cooking pot and add the cooked radicchio and garlic, the walnuts, basil, and cheese. Add some of the pasta water (I used 1/2 cup of it) and mix it all together until the cheese is creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.