Mixed field radicchio, pork belly, and wine vinegar are the few ingredients needed to make Bruciatini, one of the many dishes of the Romagna cucina povera tradition.
Kitchen note: mixed field radicchio, green and red, is a wild, uncultivated variety. Today farmers also grow this radicchio for its flavor and crispness.
Bruciatini and cucina povera of Emilia-Romagna
Bruciatini is fresh diced pancetta browned in a pan and finished with vinegar.
The name bruciatini means burned, referring to its color.
The recipe is from Romagna but exists an Emilian version made with field radicchio, onion, and wine vinegar.
It is one of my father’s favorite dishes, and my grandmother used to prepare it just for him, especially some winter evenings when he would come home late. To keep him light and correct the tiredness of the day with a dish he loved.
When I was little, I didn’t eat bruciatini. The field radicchio was so bitter that it stung in the throat, and the pungent smell of wine vinegar was too strong.
It is a dish I rediscovered a few years later at osteria.
It was a special place where I felt at home for the long years of frequenting it.
In front of the three steps, which gave the place its name, the sour smell of vinegar that permeated the air in front of the closed door meant that Gianfranco, owner, and cook, was in the kitchen intent on preparing his dinner, piadina, and bruciatini. Abundant that as soon as he came out of the small door of the kitchenette, there were immediately those who said, is this for me?
Those from Tre Scalini (Three Steps) in Imola were perhaps the best bruciatini and radicchio in Romagna. Strong, sour, and rich with radicchio and pancetta. To my surprise, this unique flavor, which doesn’t necessarily have to please everyone, won me over.
I spent so many evenings there. Dining at a table crowded with friends that smelled of vinegar and family. And, often, with Gianfranco himself while his son Aldo, behind the counter, was ready to welcome other patrons.
I remember certain foggy evenings, the streets of Imola’s historic center lit up but deserted, a silence broken only by my footsteps under the portico. And then that strong but familiar smell.
And in the osteria, just us, greeted by the sour scent of bruciatini.
How much taste in those quick and frugal dinners.
Cucina povera: smells become tastes
When I think of bruciatini, the first memory is olfactory.
Before the taste comes the overpowering smell of wine vinegar, used with abundant generosity during preparation. That strong aroma enters your nose and then goes down your throat.
You still feel it tingle as the piadina, warm and fragrant, gently greets you, trying to remedy the vinegar’s somewhat rude behavior.
Meanwhile, the toasted diced pancetta ogles are inviting but almost hidden among the green and red leaves of the radicchio.
And despite the sourness of vinegar and field radicchio, the dish has its old-fashioned grace founded on perfect balance. The sweetness of the pancetta mitigates the bitterness of the other ingredients.
E poi c’è la croccante freschezza della verdura, una volta rigorosamente di campo, che rende vivace la pietanza.
You can mitigate the tartness of the vinegar by using that apple or even balsamic vinegar from Modena. And replace the field radicchio with more red radicchio. Bread can stand in for piadina romagnola. And a ceramic plate for clay pots.
There are no rules. What’s matter is that you are hungry.
The bruciatini and radicchio is a dish that lends itself to be an appetizer, aperitif, main course, or one dish. If you want to serve it as a main course, double the quantities I wrote in the recipe.
Buona cucina, Monica
Bruciatini and radicchio
List of the Ingredients
1/2 kg field radicchios
200 g fresh Italian pancetta
wine vinegar to taste
olive oil and salt to taste
Wash radicchio, cut it thinly, and season with olive oil and a little salt.
Dice the pancetta and brown it in a skillet over high heat.
When the outside is golden-brown, finish it with vinegar.
Pour the browned pancetta over the radicchio and bring it to the table with bread or piadina.