When I was a kid, my kind of comfort food was pretty much anything that was smothered in cheese or a cream sauce (and still is). And where I’m from, I got plenty of that! When we would go out to a Gaststätte, which is sort of a German pub/restaurant, I’d always choose either a Käseschnitzel (that’s a Schnitzel with lots of melted cheese on top) or a Jägerschnitzel, which comes with a creamy mushroom sauce and a huge portion of fries. And I mean huge!
On nights when my mom didn’t exactly feel like cooking, she’d just ask me if I wanted “des nouilles au fromage.” That’s French for noodles with cheese. I could never pass that up. I also loved it when my mom would make me ham-wrapped endives with a nice Béchamel sauce. That was best of both worlds for me – cheese AND a creamy sauce. I think about this dish every time I walk by the endives in the produce aisle. But my eyes tend to wander of to the beautiful, deep and rich burgundy looking radicchio and I usually end up wondering what I could possibly make with this veggie other than adding it to a salad. So, I thought a combination of salty pancetta and Italian sausage with a mild goat cheese would provide just the diversions needed for the moderately bitter radicchio, and therefore become the kind of healthy comfort food I'm always looking for.
Radicchio is pretty popular in Italy and is gaining popularity here in the United States because of its versatility and nutritional value. Radicchio is high in antioxidants, has tons of fiber, and contains high levels of Vitamins B, C, and K. It can be eaten raw in a salad, but more often than not, it's braised, grilled, or as in this recipe, baked. Enjoy!
Baked Stuffed Radicchio with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese
12 medium to large radicchio leaves
4 very thin slices of pancetta, cut into little cubes
3-4 chicken or turkey Italian sausage links (casein removed), sweet or hot or both
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt
A pinch of pepper
Goat cheese (I get the sliced kind from Trader Joe's or the Joan of Arc goat cheese slices from Whole Foods)
1 tsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of white whole wheat flour
make it :
Preheat an oven to 400 F. Grease a large glass, ceramic or terra-cotta baking dish with the olive oil.
In an iron skillet or non-stick frying pan, cook the sausage and pancetta and break it up into little pieces. While this is cooking, place 6 stacks of 2 radicchio leaves each in the baking dish. Once the sausage mixture is cooked, add 2 good tablespoons of the mixture into each radicchio boat. Fold in the sides of the leaves, overlapping them around the sausage and place them side-by-side, seam side down in the baking dish. This makes 2 rows of 6 bundles each.
Sprinkle the wine over the radicchio bundles and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the Béchamel sauce while the radicchio is baking. Heat up 1 tbsp olive oil in a small skillet. Add 1 tbsp of white whole-wheat flour and stir for about a minute. Then slowly whisk in the milk. Simmer and whisk until it thickens. Add a little salt and pepper.
After 15 minutes, remove the foil and raise the temperature to 450. Spoon some Béchamel sauce over each radicchio and place a quarter of a slice of goat cheese on each bundle. Cook until the cheese is melted and a little browned, another 15 minutes.
Note: You can totally use almond milk instead of cow's milk for the Béchamel. A nice green salad pairs up real well with this dish.