Puntarelle as they are made in Rome – Italian Cuisine

The secrets of Checco er Carettiere, a historic Roman trattoria, where curled and seasoned chicory in the Roman style is considered an art that is learned as a child

The side dish par excellence a Rome: le chicory. From the end of autumn to the beginning of spring, when they are in season, in the Roman markets – and consequently in the restaurants – there is a curling of chicory. Because the hardest thing, in reality, is not to make them tasty, but to give them that typical curly shape that they only take if you work the right way. We asked how she prepares them to the cook of one of the most authentic restaurants in Rome.
She is Stefania Porcelli, cook and niece of Checco er Carettiere, in the kitchen for forty years, where he says he learned everything by stealing with his eyes. Including peeling and seasoning the chicory to perfection, which are the ones that, in many years of tasting, we have found among the most balanced in flavor and acidity, as well as perfect in consistency.
For the record: Checco er Carettiere, which gives the restaurant its name, is a mythological character from Trastevere who really existed. He began his career bringing the best wine of the Castles to the city, then he became an innkeeper and then … his wife was good at cooking and it all started from there.

Puntarelle as they are made in Rome

From Catalonian chicory to puntarella: "It takes patience!"

First of all, chicory is the most tender part of the Catalonian chicory. The heart of the plant and a few softer outer leaves are used. Processing is an art: in Rome it is easy to find and buy the special tool, a kind of grill with which to carve the heart of Catalonia from above and zac! threads are formed. Even if, as Stefania says, "it is better to remove them by hand, as they say in Rome, so as to also remove the external threads, which otherwise go between the teeth. It takes a lot of patience, but you can feel the difference . And in fact, since they are eaten raw, it is easy for some fibers to cause the annoying inconvenience, unless they are so precise as to clean them correctly.

To curl: water, ice and lemon

As soon as they are cleaned they are put on soaked in water, ice and lemon. It is the cold that, thanks to the thermal shock, helps to make them curl. The function of the lemon, on the other hand, is not to make them black, so as to preserve that beautiful palette of greens that goes from the very light of the threads that come from the heart of Catalonia to the darkest of the leaves.

The dressing: an emulsion that tastes of the sea

For Stefania, there is and must be garlic in the dressing of Roman chicory "but it must be only a distant memory because not everyone likes it". The role of anchovies is fundamental, which give the flavor and also the right component of salt. From Checco they rigorously buy the salted ones and then they desalinate them: "I have to see what they brought me, when they are already in oil you can hardly recognize what fish it is", comments Stefania, who over the years has consolidated the art of selection of the raw material. Then the emulsion is made with plenty of oil and vinegar. "The anchovies are crushed in a mortar until they are almost melted, together with the garlic, which must not be present in the dish, but only on the palate, then the emulsion is created with oil and vinegar ". Wanting to give a proportion, vinegar is a quarter of the oil: "Crush a dozen desalted anchovies in a mortar, rinsed and dried well, together with garlic and, if you like, a pinch of chilli. Once they have become a mush, start adding the oil, at least two tablespoons, and a teaspoon of vinegar. Of course you don't need salt because the anchovies already give their contribution of flavor , Stefania warns.

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