This Northern Italian combination brings together the alluringly bitter edge of radicchio – arguably Italy’s greatest contribution to the chicory family and certainly its most colourful – and the savoury washed-rind flavours of taleggio. The walnuts are my own textural addition, though you can leave them out if you want to play things straight. Cooking the radicchio tempers its bitterness without banishing it entirely. I won’t pretend the dish as a whole isn’t rich – there’s quite a lot of cheese – but on a blustery autumn night, that’s no bad thing.
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g radicchio, shredded into 5mm ribbons
100g plain flour
1 litre whole milk
2 bay leaves
½ a nutmeg, grated
250g fresh lasagne sheets
250g taleggio, cut into small cubes
85g parmesan, grated
14 walnut halves, finely chopped
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and garlic, plus a pinch of salt, and sweat over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the radicchio and a pinch more salt, turn up the heat a little, and stir fry for about 5 minutes, or until well wilted. Add 4 tbsp water, stir to release any stuck on bits from the pan, then put to one side.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and whisk together. Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then gradually whisk in the milk, beating well to break up any lumps, until you have a smooth sauce.
Add the bay leaves, nutmeg, cayenne and ½ tsp salt and leave to simmer gently for another 5 minutes, whisking often to prevent it sticking. Remove from the heat and put to one side. Take out the bay leaves. Grind in some pepper, taste and add more salt if needed.
Spread 1/6 of the sauce on the bottom of a 22-23cm square oven dish (or equivalent) and sprinkle with about 1/5 of the radicchio. Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, without overlapping. Cut some of them in half if necessary to make them fit.
Add another layer of sauce and radicchio, then scatter with a quarter of the taleggio, walnuts and parmesan. Cover with another layer of lasagne sheets.
Repeat twice more, then make a final layer, starting with the last of the radicchio and taleggio, followed by a thick layer of sauce and, finally, the remaining walnuts and parmesan.
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Add the lasagne and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book is Good Things to Eat.