Chicory is central to the simple cuisine of Abruzzo. In this region, where pasta, fish, and lamb rule the table, simple, fresh, “peasant” food is traditionally served, with an emphasis on comfort and locality rather than rich ingredients.
Chicory is a versatile plant; both its roots and leaves can be used in different comfort foods, such as coffee and hot soup, the true sign of a “peasant food.” The root is first baked, then ground into coarse meal, and can be brewed with coffee or beer. The leaves of different varieties of chicory plants can be used in soups or salads. Some common varieties include endives, crunchy white spears, and radicchio.
On the second Sunday after Easter, Italians celebrate the Madonna Addolorata or “della Cicoriella.” On this day, in some parts of Abruzzo, every dish of the main meal is made with chicory, to represent the suffering (or bitterness) in the life of the Virgin Mary.