Gluten-free, Side Dishes, Vegan/Vegetarian

Chicory, Sautéed Roman Style (Cicoria ripassata alla Romana)

Nicoletta September 24, 2016

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Chicory: peppery, wild, grassy and beautifully bitter greens. Sauteed Roman style with garlic and chili pepper it is a tasty side dish for fish and meat. But you can use it also on a pizza or crostini,  in a frittata with other vegetables, stuffed in a panino, or wrapped in a pita sandwich.

Chicory, Sautéed Roman Style (Cicoria ripassata alla romana)

From the picture it might look to you as a simple sauteed vegetable, and one you’re not even that familiar with. The name, too, might sound far and away, chicory, is it another name for dandelion greens? Yes, I guess it is, in Italian it is known as cicoria, and in Rome it is a staple. This dish is probably more famous than the most famous pastas, Carbonara, Amatriciana, and Cacio e Pepe. To me, it holds a special place. Cicoria ripassata alla Romana (Chicory Sautéed Roman Style), is my favorite side dish, and I don’t even consider it just a side dish. With some bread on the side it is my go to food quite often. If you give me a plate of pasta and some cicoria, I am set. My meal is done, well, maybe not so done as I need that little hit of sweetness at the end of my meals 🙂 .



Modern Romans, and I am proudly part of it, consume cicoria as passionately as their ancestors, growing, picking the wild variety, buying and eating it in enormous quantities. It is boiled -which soothes the bitterness- drained scrupulously and then sautéed or ripassata in olive oil, garlic and peperoncino (chili pepper). Every Trattoria, Osteria, or Restaurant in Rome, has it on their menu.

And you might have noticed that this “trinity” of e.v.o. oil, garlic and chili pepper is the foundation of many Italian dishes; and the smell of it, coming from the sauteing pan, is so familiar to me, so comforting and always brings me back home. My grandma was an avid eater of chicory, kind of like me 😉 , and it was present in every meal we had. When in the countryside, she knew where to go foraging the wild chicory (cicoria selvatica), wild tangled greens, shorter than their cultivated counterpart: simple, primitive, rustic. An echo of another time.

Chicory, Sautéed Roman Style (Cicoria ripassata alla romana)

We brought back some seeds from Italy and gave them to my in laws to plant in their garden. As you can see from the picture above, it was successfully grown then cultivated for us to enjoy. One of the many benefits of having parents who have a plentiful garden.

Chicory, Sautéed Roman Style (Cicoria ripassata alla romana)

Chicory, cicoria, is part of the heritage of the Italian “Cucina Povera”  (Poor Kitchen); poor but tasty cuisine, made with genuine, low cost, simple yet high quality ingredients. Dishes that our grandparents made after the War and during the Depression that were affordable, nutritious and able to feed hard working parents and a crowd of kids. We took a one day course on “Cucina Povera” in Tuscany and we will talk about it and share recipes in the near future.

Now to the flavor of the chicory: peppery, wild and grassy and beautifully bitter. Sauteed with garlic and chili pepper its bitterness is mitigated. If only boiled and seasoned with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and lemon, it is a healthier version but a tiny bit more bitter.

Chicory, Sautéed Roman Style (Cicoria ripassata alla romana)Chicory, Sautéed Roman Style (Cicoria ripassata alla romana)

It is a tasty side dish for fish, meat, cheese, eggs. You can find it also on a pizza or crostini,  in frittatas with other vegetables, in a stuffed panino, or wrapped in a pita sandwich.

Finding chicory or dandelion greens the other side of the Atlantic may be tricky but if you’re going to find them, you’ll likely find them at your local farmer’s markets or organic food markets, and if you do find them grab a few bunches. as in any greens when you cook them, they shrink to almost half the quantity if not less. The other great thing is that when you have boiled them you can squeeze the excess water out, shape them into a ball, and place them in a good zip lock freezer bag ready for the next time you want to enjoy this Chicory, Sauteed Roman Style (Cicoria Ripassata alla Romana).

Buon Appetito!

Song of the day: “Get It Together”, by Seal.

cicoria ripassata

Chicory, Sautéed Roman Style (Cicoria ripassata alla romana)

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


  • 4 cups fresh chicory leaves (during cooking it will significantly reduce its volume)
  • 6/8 cups boiling water
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, whole
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 peperoncino (chili flakes), crushed or whole


  1. Clean and cut the leaves of the chicory. Wash them well under running water.
  2. Place a big pot of water to boil on the stove, then when the water comes to a boil place the chicory leaves in.
  3. Let cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Drain the chicory leaves in a colander and set aside to cool.
  5. When cooled off, squeeze remaining water out of them and make into a couple balls. At this time you can freeze some if you don’t want to use it all.
  6. In a frying pan fry olive oil, garlic and chili flakes.
  7. When the garlic is golden in color, add the chicory leaves and salt.
  8. Fry in the pan for about 10 minutes, stirring to let the leaves infuse with the oil mixture.
  9. Serve warm.


Chicory has a slightly bitter taste, especially if it is wild chicory. Boiling it, is a good way to eliminate some of its bitterness, and sautéeing it in the pan with olive oil, garlic and chili flakes, mitigate its taste even more. In Rome it is the most common side dish, a great compliment to meat, fish, cheese and even used as a pizza or crostini topping, or stuffed in a panino.

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Chicory, Sautéed Roman Style (Cicoria ripassata alla romana)

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  • Avatar
    Reply Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop September 26, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Beautiful garden! I have never tried chicory. It sounds wonderful. I love how your grandmother knew where to find it growing wild. Past generations seemed to have much more knowledge on eating wild foods. Amazing!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 26, 2016 at 10:21 am

      Thank you Kathy, it is a truly wonderful green. Unfortunately not widely known in North America. I love its bitter flavor. Yes, past generations were awesome!

  • Avatar
    Reply Maria September 28, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Wonderful post Nicoletta! You have captured the essence of cicoria. My mom was forever trying to make us eat our greens. She would also make “little balls” which were frozen to be enjoyed throughout the winter months. To be honest, these were the greens that I least appreciated as a child. As an adult, I can’t seem to get enough of them. Thanks for sharing ♥

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 30, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Thanks Maria! I can never have enough of cicoria, even in my yonger age, but I guess it is not the most desirable food to eat as a kid 😊.

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