Bagna Càuda Penne with Radicchio
This is that old-fashioned, unctuous Italian "hot dip"—bagna càuda—refashioned into pasta for those days when you just need to feed yourself. It's also a careful practice in balance: the anchovies, when melted into a sauce like this, are musky and redolent of rich saltiness (not fishiness); the garlic, chili, and thyme lend their usual bite, spice, and woodsy warmth; and the sweet vermouth rounds it all off. But my greatest contribution here, I think, is the radicchio, whose quiet bitterness is as pleasurable as a solo night in.
1/4 pound penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup vermouth rouge
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 head radicchio, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook the penne in a pot of salted, boiling water until nearly al dente (if the box says 10 minutes, drain it at 9).
Meanwhile, starting from a cold skillet, cook the olive oil, anchovies, and garlic over low heat for about 5 minutes, whisking until broken down into a fragrant, umber-grey gunge. Add the dried chili flakes, thyme, and brown sugar, warming through for a few seconds until aromatic. Splash in the vermouth and milk—and here, toss in the nearly–al dente penne. Stir together, cooking, until the vermouth and milk reduce significantly and become absorbed by the pasta.
Finally, off the heat, mix in the pat of butter as well as the radicchio, which will wilt slightly but maintain its vibrant wine-red color. Season with salt and pepper.