Italian food is about not only pairing meals with the right wines but also eating seasonally. One of our favourites is a classic Roman winter salad made from puntarelle which is in season from around October to April. The plant, which has long white and pale green leaves, comes from the chicory family. Once prepared, the crisp and deliciously bitter curls of puntarelle are dressed with an anchovy, garlic, red wine vinegar, and oil dressing, whisked until emulsified - and it is not to be missed.
Preparation of the puntarelle can be time-consuming but it is absolutely worth it. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Discard the outer leaves of the puntarelle plant and cut the remaining pale green shoots into very fine shreds. Place these shreds into the icy cold water for at least an hour or two. The shreds will curl into elegant spirals. Drain the curls very well and toss them in the delicious dressing. If you can’t find puntarelle, the dressing is equally delicious poured over finely sliced radicchio or endive (you can soak the endive and the leaves will curl up a little so they’re almost like puntarelle in appearance).
As for a wine to pair with this intensely flavoured dish, we would suggest a Frascati Superiore from Castel de Paolis. The blend of Malvasia del Lazio, Trebbiano Giallo, Bombino, and Bellone grapes should stand up to the bitter leaves and salty anchovies nicely.