Tuscan Onion Confit

By • January 9, 2010 • 24 Comments



Author Notes: For years now, on the day before Thanksgiving my mother has made what in my family goes by the slightly unappetizing name of "Tuscan Onion Goo." Inspired by a visit to a family-owned gem in Florence called Ristorante del Fagioli, this sour-sweet onion confit was originally served to her as an antipasto. She enjoyed it so much that she asked, in halting but enthusiastic Italian, if the waiter would tell her how it was made. He promptly ushered her into the tiny kitchen, where the sweaty, grinning chef himself showed her how to put together the dish. She took mental notes and then came home and recreated it, with a few small adaptations. The recipe has since become one of my mother's signatures, and Thanksgiving would simply not be Thanksgiving in our house without "Tuscan Onion Goo." It's a great addition -- or alternative -- to cranberry sauce. While the flavors are very different, it serves a similar role: the sweetness provides a counterpoint to other, more savory sides, and the acid in the vinegar cuts through some of the richness that often pervades the meal. The confit couldn't be easier to make, although it does require a bit of a time commitment. You can use frozen pearl onions, but it's worth trying with fresh cippollini. My mother insists that you have to be crazy to make it with anything other than frozen onions after the first time, but I find peeling cippollini somewhat cathartic. The confit keeps very well in the fridge, and it doesn't have to be limited to turkey; it's great with beef, pork and lamb as well.Merrill Stubbs

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 12 ounces small cipollini onions or one 10-ounce bag of frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup medium sherry
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Salt
  1. Using a small frying pan, lightly toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan back and forth to keep them from scorching. Set aside.
  2. Peel the onions -- either by blanching them first in boiling, salted water for about 30 seconds and then using a sharp paring knife to strip away the skins, or by simply going at the raw onions with the aforementioned paring knife. (Personally, I find blanching a waste of time here and prefer to just have at it.)
  3. Put the olive oil in large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook gently (without browning) for about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until mostly reduced. Add 3/4 cup water, vinegar, sugar, raisins, pine nuts and a pinch of salt. Stir well. Simmer the mixture over the lowest heat possible for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. You may need to add more water from time to time if the mixture gets too thick and gooey or starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. It is finished when everything has caramelized well, and the flavors have blended together (you can take it as far as you’d like—I for one prefer a deep amber color).
  4. Cool and serve at room temperature. Can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Jump to Comments (24)

Tags: Holidays, Thanksgiving

Comments (24) Questions (1)

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about 1 month ago marsiamarsia

Cannot wait for Thanksgiving to try this! Looks scrumptious! But being among those who are not terribly fond of raisins, I was thinking: what about dates, cut to raisin size? I would value your opinion about this substitution, Merrill, as you know what it's supposed to taste like.

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5 months ago akrainey

After 3 hours of cooking, the mixture had not arrived at what I would consider a confit. I put it in the refrigerator at that point, but would love to get advice on making it more jam-like. Thank you!

Merrill

5 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Sorry to hear you're having trouble! Did it look like the photo above?

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9 months ago Ham

This dish is perfect for the holidays. I would, however, use a dry sherry next time, or perhaps half of the sugar. It was a bit too sweet for my taste.

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9 months ago Whats4Dinner

My goodness! This looks so friggin' good!!! I'll make this in addition to our traditional "Asian" inspired fresh cranberry sauce (my son would "disown" me if I didn't make it ;-)

Stringio

10 months ago Margaret Waters

Fagioli was one of our favorites in Florence, close to our flat. This is delicious. Served it with grilled lamb the other night. Nobody touched my famous mint sauce. Didn't have enough raisins so dried cranberries were lovely. Making a quadruple batch for the crowd at Thanksgiving.

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11 months ago Marihada

Is the sherry meant to be dry or sweet?

Merrill

11 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I like to use a medium sweet sherry.

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over 1 year ago P.F.

This works equally well with shallots. Try buying similar-sized ones, breaking up the ones with multiple bulbs so all are reasonably equal in size. They'll need to cook a little longer than pearl onions. I've done this with sultanas as well, and just sherry vinegar instead of sherry and vinegar. Pretty much foolproof if you cook everything slowly.
I suspect that in Tuscany, one of the ingredients would have been saba, a sweet byproduct of winemaking.

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over 1 year ago Maria Nersesian

Utterly divine!

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almost 2 years ago shankopotomus

Didnt have raisins so chopped dried apricots and prunes into the mix.

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almost 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Taking you at your word that this can be refrigerated for up to two weeks, I'm making it over the weekend, for Thanksgiving. Yikes, it makes my mouth water just reading the recipe! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago ihaventpoisonedyouyet

Although I was momentarily indecisive about serving this without having previously made it, it was delicious with the ham and the turkey and the leftovers were equally good on crackers as an appetizer. It was an easy easy recipe, leftovers keep well, always have the ingredients on hand. It's definitely going in the "favorites" rotation.

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almost 3 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

OMG, this is spectacular. I love it. Many thanks for sharing, Merrill. We'll definitely be adding this "goo" to our holiday table staples!

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almost 3 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

i am salivating over this- it's cooking on my stove now and is pretty close to done. ooh!

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almost 3 years ago ihaventpoisonedyouyet

Dear god, I haven't started drinking yet and apparently I can neither spell or post correctly!

Merrill

almost 3 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Ha! You can go ahead and add the pine nuts today. This really gets better after a few days.

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almost 3 years ago ihaventpoisonedyouyet

I'm making this on Sunday before thanksgiving and was wondering if I should wait until Thursday. To add the pine nuts, or just go rheas and do so so today.

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almost 3 years ago ihaventpoisonedyouyet

I'm making this on Sunday before thanksgiving and was wondering if I should wait until Thursday. To add the pine nuts, or just go rheas and do so so today.

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almost 3 years ago Helen's All Night Diner

Can't wait to try this, looks wonderful!

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almost 4 years ago jwlucas

Should this take longer with frozen pearl onions? It smells terrific but it's no where close to the goo stage. I just added a glug of fresh apple cider to see if the extra liquid and sugar might wrap it up.

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almost 4 years ago Lizthechef

This is simmering on my stove as I prep for Thanksgiving next week - an instant winner! Thanks for a terrific addition to our dinner. I can so see this with the beef tenderloin at Christmas as well. Added a little fresh thyme and grated a knob of ginger as well, btw.

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over 4 years ago Lynne Faubert

Are the raisins part of the original recipe? I'm not crazy about them in general (for Xmas, made cranberry chutney with raisins, rum and ginger, then went: oh, now I remember, not a big raisin fan...). I'd love to try something like this though.

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over 4 years ago Veronica

Yes, the raisins were always there and are needed for both the sweetness and the texture. As a non-raisin-lover, maybe you could try dried cranberries...I suspect you might have to add more sugar. Would love to know!