Bitter Leaf Caesar Salad

Serves: 2-4 as a starter or main course

Bitter Leaf Caesar Salad
Bitter Leaf Caesar Salad Bitter Leaf Caesar Salad

Italians- and the French for that matter- have a strong salad game, especially when it comes to the bitter leaves. If you’ve ever wandered through an Italian vegetable market you will have seen an embarrassment of riches. There are endless varieties of radicchio –from the pale speckled castelfranco to the stunning claret tardivo, both of which I have used here, thanks to a trip to Valvona and Crolla the other day. In France, dandelion and endive are frequently added to salads to provide a hit of bitterness. A fairly classic Caesar dressing compliments these leaves with both sourdough croutons and pecorino crisps adding a welcome crunch and bite.


  • 1 large slice sourdough bread
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 60g pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tin anchovies in oil
  • 60ml light olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 radicchio tardivo, washed and dried
  • 1 radicchio castelfranco, washed and dried
Bitter Leaf Caesar Salad


  1. Heat the oven to fan 180°c, mark 6. Tear the sourdough into bite-size pieces, place on a small non-stick baking tray and drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven for about 6-8 minutes until the croutons are golden. Remove to a bowl and toss with half the crushed garlic. Set aside.
  2. Sprinkle half the grated pecorino over the same baking tray (you don’t need to clean it) and bake in the oven for about 5-6 minutes until the cheese is light golden and melted. Leave to cool and crisp up then break into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
  3. For the dressing, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Lower in the egg and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Peel off the shell and place in a food processor (or mixing bowl if you have a stick blender). Add half the anchovies, all their oil, the light olive oil and lemon juice. Blend to a thick paste.
  4. Arrange the salad leaves in a wide bowl and sprinkle over the remaining grated pecorino. Add the croutons, pecorino crisps and drape over the remaining anchovies. Drizzle over the dressing , toss well to coat the leaves and serve.
Bitter Leaf Caesar Salad