March 3, 2011 / Food & Wine
Rome, Lazio
Puntarelle, fresh, at the market
Puntarelle still in bunches, as they look when they are picked.

The end of the puntarelle (literally “little tips”) season approaches, and a sad day that is. From November through February Romans enjoy these crunchy, watery greens, a variety of Catalonian chicory. As they are found nowhere else in Italy there is also a component of Roman pride and identity in this dish, and so it is prepared in homes and local restaurants alike.

Puntarelle Preparation

They are called puntarelle because one eats the tender shoots, or tips, of this plant. Preparation is a pain however. The plant (photo 1) must be cleaned of its leaves in order to reach and remove the shoots. One by one these are then split long ways from the base almost all the way to the tip into four or six parts. At this point, you soak them in cold water for about 1/2 an hour, and the previously straight stems curl up (photo 2). Making a salad for a larger group therefore can be a long affair, which is why both the plants as well as pre-cut and soaked puntarelle (10 times the ‘non-prepped’ price) are available at the markets.

At this point the puntarelle are dressed with the only dressing in Italy that is made first and then mixed in. (All other salads are dressed by simply adding the ingredients directly to the salad one at a time and then mixing.) Raw garlic, anchovy, and vinegar mashed together make up this sharp dressing, which is added to the puntarelle, ideally tossed directly with one’s hands, allowed to sit for about 30 minutes, and then served adding some olive oil and if necessary a pinch of salt.

But not for much longer, as all good things must come to an end . . . although in puntarelle‘s case thankfully only until next November!

Puntarelle, prepped, at a market in Rome
Puntarelle that have been prepped by slicing and soaking in water, at a market in Rome


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

10 Responses to “Puntarelle”

  1. Evanne

    Alas, this is one of the only sad things about living in Central Italia, the end of puntarelle, and then, agretti.

  2. Virginia C. Mars

    This will be something to look forward to next November.

  3. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    as a chef, I have learned from those in Molise that this is a wonderful twist in place of Scarola, in di zuppa di Polla, a thick crust of pane,
    Do you believe in heaven?

  4. I love the puntarelle! I haven’t been in Rome when they are in season lately. I must make it a point to go at that time, so I can taste some again!!

  5. Certainly you can’t find them where I am now, but I know I have enjoyed them when I went to visit my mum last time in Rome!!
    I will be back soon to the eternal city!!
    Grazie GB!!
    A presto,

  6. Nancy Eddy

    For those of you in the Washington DC area, Dino’s, in Cleveland Park, had puntarelle on the menu this spring.

  7. Carey Satin

    I was so excited to find Puntarelle at my local farmers market here in Toronto. I have not had that salty and spicy green salad since leaving Rome so long ago… Searching for a recipe online it was a pleasant surprise to see your face GB! I hope all is well with you and yours.


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