Monday, April 20, 2009


It's really cold. And windy. And rainy. These are days for wearing oversized hoodies and fitted fuzzy slippers, keeping a near-constant pot of boiling water on the stove for hot tea and hot chocolate, and eating nothing but warm comfort food. Should you happen to find yourself stranded in the middle of a similarly cold, bleak day wherever you are, I think it would be wise for you to make this: Pasta with Caramelized Onion Sauce.

The way a large skillet full of onions can ever so slowly cook down to a magical sauce of burnished goodness is, in my book, amazing. Each onion simply melts on your tongue, releasing its sweetness and caramelized depth in stages. You just feel warm when you eat this. It's not a low-fat dish by a long stretch, but its warm, comforting embrace in your belly will have you forgiving that little detail pretty quickly. It's not a quick-cooking dish, either, but its simplicity and the sweet aroma that will fill your house will also have you acting more patient than you've likely been in a long time.

This recipe originally calls for some Madeira instead of the stock and balsamic vinegar. We are a no-booze household, so it's sometimes challenging (and frankly, a little sad) to have to find adequate substitutes for it in recipes. Mine seemed to work pretty well in this case, though, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the flavors.

Pasta with Caramelized Onion Sauce
Adapted from Orangette, who adapted from James Beard

8 Tbsp. (4 oz., or 1 stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ lb. yellow onions, halved and sliced about ¼-inch thick
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
¾ lb. short pasta, cooked according to package
Grated Parmesan

In a large (12-inch) skillet, warm the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent. Stir in the sugar, reduce the heat to low or medium-low, and cook the onions very gently for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (Do not cook them too quickly or over too high heat, or they will get dry and papery.) As they cook, they will become meltingly soft and juicy, and they should caramelize to a deep shade of amber. Stir in the stock and vinegar, cook for about 5 minutes for flavors to absorb, and then add the pasta to the pan. Toss pasta well with the sauce.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of salt and some grated cheese.

Yield: about 4 servings

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