Big Girls, Global Kitchen: Rigatoni Treviso

DISH: Rigatoni Treviso
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Pasta, Sausage, Radicchio

A month or so ago, my friend Ali had a few of us ladies over to her new apartment on the Lower East Side. She made a beautiful Italian meal of rigatoni with a sausage cream sauce, and after downing two large bowls and thwarting any desire I once had to go out drinking, I realized I had to make this pasta.

The next week, in anticipation of my Valentine’s weekend excursion, I emailed Ali for the recipe and for the story behind it. The dish was passed down from Ali’s mother, who, after marrying an Italian man, had become quite well versed in the ways of perfect pasta. Though I’ve never had the pleasure of partaking in her cooking, when I visited Ali’s house on Long Island last summer, I spent the better part of my weekend pouring through her mother’s collection of Gourmet and Food & Wine magazines, lining the walls floor to ceiling, and dating back to 1942. It didn’t surprise me that this woman had given birth to both my new favorite pasta dish and the friend who made it for me.

When I went over the ingredient list, I was surprised to see radicchio was the other main component of the mixture (the first was sausage). Its usually bitter flavor had melted into the sauce, and the leaves had become unrecognizable after the simmering. Ali’s notes specified to get the long radicchio versus the round version. I paused for a second and racked my brain. I just couldn’t picture this vegetable.

With my head bent low (if there had been anyone watching), I went on wikipedia to look up the varieties of radicchio. Sure enough, the long version, resembling a purple leafy endive, came on the screen. Radicchio Treviso as it turned out is most commonly found in Italian cooking, and is a little harder to find in American supermarkets, though I did eventually find it. Perhaps I had happened upon this vegetable at the markets in Rome, where Ali and I studied abroad together. Chances are, as my ignorance would reflect, I was too busy snatching up cute little eggplants and buying pizza by the pound to examine the heads of radicchio.

When I got around to making my new favorite pasta it was spectacular once again, though I think Ali’s version will still be the more special of the two as far as my mind and taste buds are concerned. But the best part about the dish was discovering a new veggie in the produce section, and it may just be making an appearance in Italian dishes I’ll make in the near future.

From my kitchen, where I’m mixing my new favorite pasta with my new favorite vegetable, to yours,



Rigatoni Treviso con Panna, e Salsiccia
Makes 4 servings

I couldn’t find breakfast sausage at the meat counter, just sweet Italian. Ali specified that the sausage should not have fennel seeds since they have such a distinct flavor. Unfortunately, the sausage I used was sweet Italian, and it did have fennel seeds. Oops. I still thought this version tasted great. One recommendation the (Italian) butcher gave me: add 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar to the sausage as it’s browning. This will help adjust the flavors (breakfast sausage actually tends to be sweeter) and help the meat caramelize.


1 small onion, diced
1lb uncooked breakfast sausage (or sweet Italian,* just add sugar), removed from casing
1 1/2 tsp sugar* (optional, see note above)
2 small heads of radicchio di treviso (long, not round), halved and cut into 1-inch strips
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmiggiano cheese
1lb rigatoni

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of cooking liquid.

In a large skillet, saute the onion over medium-high heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the sausage to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

NOTE: I skipped this step since I don’t have a food processor. It is fine to just add the sausage to the pan and break it up with a spatula into very fine bits as it browns. Just make sure there are no large chunks.

Push the onions to the sides of the pan and add the sausage. Continue to cook over high heat, breaking apart the pieces with your spatula, until fully browned and beginning to caramelize. If you are using sweet Italian, add the sugar with the meat.

Turn the heat back down to medium, and add the radicchio to the pan. Saute gently until the leaves are very wilted and reduced in size by half.

NOTE: try not to use too much of the base of the radicchio which has no red leaves, and is only stalk/core. If you do, chop it a little finer, as it will take longer to become tender.

Turn the heat down to low and add the cream. Saute for a few minutes until incorporated. Add the cheese add toss to combine. Add the drained pasta to the pot and continue to cook for a minute or so. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the cooking water.

Serve immediately with some extra grated cheese and some chopped parsley, if you have it on hand.

Bon Appetito!

  • Frankie

    I saw radicchio treviso in the market the other day and tried roasting it in halves (cutting it the way you do) as I sometimes do with regular radicchio and endives. The treviso is much more delicate, less cabbage-y, and it didn’t take long for it to caramelize in the oven. I couldn’t believe how sublime it tasted. So I can imagine how good it was in this sauce.

  • Chef Aimee

    See I love that you could not find the right sausage because I do not like fennel and now know I can make this phenomenal recipe! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Anonymous

    Where did you find the radicchio? I’m always interested in hearing where people food shop around here. I’m partial to Fairway, but their produce section is sometimes lacking (No rhubarb! But whyyyy?)

  • Jo

    Cara and Phoebe,
    I’m loving the fact that I randomly stumbled onto this fab page. The rigatoni treviso looks amazing. The radicchio sausage combo is a fave of mine. Makes for a great pizza topping.

  • Clinton from Texas

    This pasta is truly amazing! The radicchio cuts the richness of the sausage and cream in an almost magical way.

  • Graham

    I had to resist the strong urges to mess with this recipe – add some garlic, red pepper flakes, etc. But I followed it pretty much exactly ( besides regular radicchio, basic Tuscan sausage) and it was perfect. Simple and delicious. Now where’s your DC book party gonna be?? I’ve got a slight crush on Phoebe after watching her interview on Amateur Gourmet…

  • Amanda

    Hi! This recipe looks delicious, but I don’t like cheese :-/…If I were to reduce the amount of cheese, how would that affect the recipe?  Anyone know?

    Thanks! :-)


    • BGSK

      Hi Amanda,

      No worries! So long as you like cream, the pasta should still be delicious. Parm adds some additional richness, but it’s not necessary. Enjoy!


  • Floridalefty

    How would the pasta taste without the raddichio?  I’ve searched high and low for the treviso type, and can only find the round/traditional raddichio.  

    Is there anything I can add in its place?  Grazie!

    • BGSK

      Hi Florida,

      Treviso is kind of a cross between the round-headed radicchio and endive. I’d say you could definitely use either, or both and a replacement! The regular radicchio would be a great way to go for a first try. Hope you enjoy it! xoPhoebe

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