Puntarelle Alla Romana (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing)

In this classic Roman dish, crisp, juicy shreds of puntarelle are tossed with a potent anchovy- and garlic-heavy dressing.

Overhead view of puntarelle salad on a colorful stripped background

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Why This Recipe Works

  • Crisp, bitter puntarelle pairs well with anchovies and garlic, mellowing their intense flavor. 
  • If puntarelle is hard to find, endive is a great substitute. 
  • Soaking thinly-sliced strips of puntarelle or endive in ice water for a few hours forms spiraled curlicues.

For someone that is as obsessed with Italian cuisine as I am (by which I mean: a lot), I have only been to Italy but one time, for a mere 10 days one November awhile ago. But I packed a lot of eating into that one short trip, including tasting and falling in love with puntarelle alla Romana for the first time, then proceeding to order it daily the rest of the time I was in Rome. (Late autumn is the beginning of puntarelle season in Italy, which runs from October to April.) 

Puntarelle salad is made by tossing crisp, juicy shreds of the mostly mild-mannered bitter green with a potent anchovy- and garlic-heavy dressing. The flavor of the salad is intense, no doubt, but, paradoxically, the texture and flavor of the puntarelle sands most of the edge off the garlic and anchovies, making it potent, but entirely pleasant. Case in point: My Midwest-raised wife does not care for salty, intense things like anchovies, olives, or capers, and yet even she loves this salad. It might seem like a strange dish to obsess over, but I love it madly, and I know I’m not the only one.

Puntarelle on a blue cutting board

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

From a distance, heads of puntarelle look a lot like other members of the chicory family they belong to, with a crown of long, slender, serrated leaves, with pale white ribs and deep green dandelion-like fringes, not unlike escarole. But these outer leaves conceal a bizarre surprise within: a gnarled cluster of pale green asparagus-like shoots, oftentimes knotted around one another like a freaky, many-fingered fist. (The shoots’ vague resemblance to asparagus explains why another name for puntarelle in Italian is cicoria asparago, or “asparagus chicory.”) 

While the heart of puntarelle is sometimes braised, it is most commonly served raw, either as individual spears on an antipasto platter, or in the aforementioned salad. For the salad, the shoots are sliced into fine, long shreds with a knife, or, better yet, using a dedicated puntarelle cutter made from a series of gridded metal wires strung tautly across a wooden frame, which makes quick work of it. The shreds are then placed in a bowl of ice water for an hour or two, after which they form elegant, spiraled curlicues. (Produce stands and supermarkets in Italy sell pre-shredded and pre-curled puntarelle, eliminating the work entirely.) After that, the curls are tossed with a dressing made from olive oil, red wine vinegar, loads of pounded garlic and anchovies, herbs, and other salty, cured things like chopped olives or capers. 

Using a contraception to cut puntarelle

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

When I came home from Italy, I looked high and low in my local farmer’s markets and specialty stores, but it seemed that nobody here in the Boston area grew puntarelle. Nor was it the sort of thing that showed up as an import from elsewhere, so my brief, passionate love affair came to an abrupt and well, bitter, end. (Puntarelle does show up in bigger markets like New York City and Los Angeles, so those of you living in places like that are fortunate enough to sustain an ongoing relationship with the vegetable.) 

Until I decided I could live with a stand-in for the puntarelle, that is. While it doesn’t really resemble the vegetable, at least in its native form, its fellow chicory-cousin endive actually does make a pretty great substitute. Not only does it have a similar crisp-juicy texture and a mild-but-piquant bitterness, but—as I discovered after experimenting with it a bit—it also curls nicely when cut into shreds and iced down for awhile! It’s not the same, by any means: Its texture is a bit more starchy-fibrous than that of puntarelle, and it doesn’t curl quite as dramatically. But it scratches the same itch for me, and I make it all the time.

A bowl of cut endives

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

The method is the same as described above, with a few differences owing to the substitution. For starters, I like to use a mixture of white (Belgian) endive and red endive, which resembles white endive in form and flavor, except streaked red like the treviso—another chicory that has red-and-white variegated leaves like radicchio—it has been crossed with. (My local Trader Joe’s sells a mix of white and red in small packages.) To prep it, you quarter the heads without removing the core. You then slice each quarter lengthwise through the core into 1/4-inch-wide pieces. Leaving the core attached lets the pieces form frilly florets that curl chaotically when placed in ice water, giving them a bit more of a puntarelle-like appearance. 

Puntarelle salad

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

If you can get your hands on actual puntarelle, by all means swap it out for the imposter here. Once in a blue moon, I’ve been able to procure the real deal myself, and it was as good as I remembered when made with this recipe. Either way, it'll do until the day we can both get back to Rome again.

Recipe Details

Puntarelle Alla Romana (Puntarelle Salad With Anchovy and Garlic Dressing)

Prep 10 mins
Soaking Time 2 hrs
Total 2 hrs 10 mins
Serves 4 to 6 servings

In this classic Roman dish, crisp, juicy shreds of puntarelle are tossed with a potent anchovy- and garlic-heavy dressing.


  • 20 ounces (570g) puntarelle (1 to 2 heads) or Belgian endive (8 to 10 heads; a mix of white and red if available), trimmed (see note)

  • 8 oil-packed anchovies, drained (32g)

  • 2 medium garlic cloves (10g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste; for table salt, use half as much by volume

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) red wine vinegar

  • 5 tablespoons (75ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup (20g) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • 3 tablespoons (45g) capers, drained and roughly chopped

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pluck the outer leaves off the heads of puntarelle, tear or cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Remove the shoots from the heads and, if present, trim and discard the woody bottom end of each. Cut shoots into 1/4-inch-thick strips (you may need to halve or quarter them lengthwise first). If there’s a fatter core, trim off the tougher base, cut it in half lengthwise, and then cut the halves into strips.

    Four image collage showing how to prepare puntarelle

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  2. Alternatively, if using endive, quarter endive lengthwise without removing cores. Slice each quarter into 1/8-inch strips lengthwise, at an angle through core, so leaves remain attached.

    Four image collage of endives being prepared

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  3. Transfer prepared puntarelle or endive to a bowl and cover fully with cold water and a handful of ice cubes. Cover with a small plate or other similar object to keep pieces submerged. Refrigerate until curled, at least 2 hours (they may remain submerged for up to 18 hours). 

    Punterelle in a glass bowl with ice

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  4. Drain puntarelle or endive and dry in a salad spinner. Refrigerate until needed.

    Punterelle in a salad spiner

    Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

  5. Meanwhile, place anchovies, garlic, and salt on a cutting board and mash with the back of a fork until a coarse paste forms. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add vinegar and whisk until uniform. Add oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until emulsified.

    Four image collage of dressing being made for Punterelle salad with anchovies, salt, and garlic on a blue cutting board, mashed with a knife, oil being whisked into a the mixture and finished dressing.

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  6. Add puntarelle or endive, parsley, and half of the capers to bowl and toss to coat with dressing. Season with pepper and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving platter, top with remaining capers, and serve.

    Puntarelle topped with dressing and capers

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Special Equipment

salad spinner


Some supermarkets sell heads of red endive, which is actually a cross between endive and treviso. (Trader Joe’s sells them in mixed packs.) Use a mix of both if you can find them for a splash of color.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Once soaked, drained, and spun dry, endive or puntarelle will keep for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
193 Calories
17g Fat
5g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 193
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 22%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 18mg 6%
Sodium 514mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 8mg 40%
Calcium 45mg 3%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 309mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)