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Penne with Ricotta, Caramelized Onion, and Radicchio

Scott Phillips

Servings: 6

Sweet caramelized onion and creamy cheese tame radicchio’s bitter nature in this wintertime pasta. Fried capers add a crisp jolt of brightness to just about every bite.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup large capers, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium head radicchio, halved through the stem, cored, and thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes; more to taste
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh whole-milk ricotta

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 500
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 170
  • Fat (g): 19
  • Saturated Fat (g): 7
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9
  • Cholesterol (mg): 30
  • Sodium (mg): 760
  • Carbohydrates (g): 62
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 19


  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  • Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the capers and thyme, cover with a splatter shield (if you have one), and fry, stirring occasionally, until the capers are golden and puffed, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers and thyme to a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe out the skillet.
  • Boil the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  • Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the radicchio, pepper flakes, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the radicchio and onion are soft and tender, about 4 minutes.
  • Put 1/2 cup of the ricotta in a large bowl and whisk in the reserved pasta cooking water. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add the onion and radicchio and toss to combine. Stir in half of the capers and season to taste with salt. Serve dolloped with the remaining 1 cup ricotta and topped with the remaining capers.


Quick-fried capers also make a great garnish for soups and salads.


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Reviews (3 reviews)

  • Atesh | 03/24/2020

    My life partner grew up in northern Italy, loving radicchio in salads and as a cooked side. Our family cook these days (this writer) never saw a head of radicchio while growing up in the Midwest, let alone experiencing it as an edible. But we both love this recipe's ease of preparation and dramatically contrasting flavors, so we return to enjoy it again and again.

  • Taunted | 10/05/2017

    I find this an excellent recipe and have made it about four times already - it's so simple and a savoury delight!

    I disapprove of that other review who's writer does not like radicchio... it's like rating a vanilla ice cream poorly because you don't like vanilla! If you've never tried radicchio before and find it unpleasantly bitter that's not the recipe's fault! Or, if you already know radicchio and fear its bitterness, moderate the dish with more sweet caramelised onions (I go for a large onion myself) or more ricotta. Also btw I don't bother draining oil from the capers anymore... I don't see any benefit.

  • Megann | 03/08/2017

    I really wanted to like it but the bitterness of the radicchio was just too much.

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