Pasta with Caramelized Onions

MAKES: 4 About 4 servings

TIME: About 1 hour

I found this recipe miraculous when I was introduced to it around 20 years ago, and I still love it. The onions are cooked slowly and carefully (see Caramelized Onions), until they become sweet and incredibly tender.

Many of the ideas found in 10 Ways to Boost Pasta with Broccoli, Cauliflower, or Broccoli Raab (left) can be used here as well.

5 or 6 medium to large onions (about 2 pounds)

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound linguine, spaghetti, capellini, fettuccine, or other long pasta

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Thinly slice the onions; this is a good job for a mandoline or (my preference, because this is a lot of onions) the food processors slicing disk. Put them in a large dry skillet over medium-low heat and cover. Check and stir every 5 minutes. The onions will first give up lots of liquid, then dry out; after 20 to 30 minutes, when they begin to brown and stick to the pan, remove the cover. Add the 1/3 cup of olive oil, along with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Continue to cook the onions until they are uniformly brown and soft, almost pasty, 10 to 20 minutes more. Cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy.

Taste the onions and adjust the seasoning; drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. In a warm bowl, toss together the pasta and onions, along with the remaining oil and a little of the cooking water if necessary to allow the mixture to coat the pasta evenly. Toss with some Parmesan and serve, passing more Parmesan at the table.

Variation

Pasta with Savory Caramelized Onions. The addition of stronger flavors nicely counters the onions sweetness. In Step 2, add 2 tablespoons capers or chopped pitted black olives (or both) to the onions as they cook. In Step 3, add 1 teaspoon balsamic or other mild vinegar, or to taste but be careful not to overdo it.