Pasta

The Braised Onion Pasta I Only Make for People I Love

Because I'm not standing over the stove for two-plus hours for just anyone.

October 16, 2019
Photo by Mark Weinberg

There are, for me, two kinds of recipes, one for each mood: The first kind is quick and easy, like the 30-minute lemon chicken I make when I come home from work hungry and don't want to think too hard about what I'm feeding myself. The second is for when I'm feeding someone else, usually something special I'm excited to share; these take more time, and just a little bit more care.

Like this braised onion pasta, which takes at least two hours to prepare. Even longer if you're making fresh pasta (which, for this recipe, I always do).

There are a couple of key tricks to this sauce: Don't skimp on the butter (this adaptation calls for 10 tablespoons, but I like to stick with the original and use a full 12). Perhaps most important: Be patient. You may be tempted to turn up the heat to speed along the cooking process, but keeping the heat as low as possible for an hour-plus (I've been known to take my onions up to two hours; I recommend it) will give you the most ethereally jammy and complex-tasting caramelized onions ever.

Also, make fresh pasta if you can. When I'm cooking this dish, I like to make more or less a day out of it—spending the afternoon mixing, rolling, and cutting thin sheets of wide pappardelle and using the early evening to prepare the sauce. But there's absolutely zero shame in just buying fresh pasta from the store (I do it all the time).

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Top Comment:
“For the people I love most there’s mainly one dish: Spanish Oxtail Stew bc it’s delicious and it takes at least 3-4 hours, but it tastes best the next day or even 2 days after the braising is complete. That is if you can keep the family from cadging portions as soon as the meat is just about to fall off the bone. The other dish that my loved ones crave during the fall is Tong Yuen — a traditional Chinese seasonal soup with round dumplings made from sticky rice flour that represent the full moon. My grandmother, the soup whisperer, made Tong Yuen every fall for the family she doted on, and we looked forward to it every year. When she passed, my mother took on Tong Yuen duty. Now that she can no longer cook as a consequence of Alzheimer’s, I have inherited the recipe and love to cook it for our family when time permits. If you like mochi, this is a wonderful cold weather soup. ”
— Mom
Comment

One fall Sunday, my college roommate and I were looking to avoid studying for a project to tackle. We hadn't cooked in ages, and wanted to relish the day with a long recipe to which we could devote all of our attention. Before working at Food52, I was a community member first, and would often turn to the site for something new to try. That day, I discovered this onion pasta.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Being from an Italian family, my roommate took charge of the fresh pasta. I tended to the onions, stirring them every so often, until they looked just like the picture on the recipe page. Like all 76 commenters on the recipe, we were astonished by how absolutely delicious it was, particularly with a heap of salty grated Parm over top.

But I didn't fully appreciate just how special this pasta was, or how making a dish like this for someone was a way of showing appreciation for them, until I made it for someone who couldn't have cared less about either.

It was another Sunday, this time in the spring. My roommate and I had invited over a few of our favorite people to eat what we called the "magic onion sauce." Like before, we spent a few hours prepping the fresh pasta and onions, taking care to make sure that the dish we'd hyped up to our friends for days lived up to expectations.

That night, when everyone showed up for dinner, so did an unexpected plus-one my roommate and I had never met before. No problem. There was plenty to go around and we were more than happy to share it with him, too.

But when I served him a bowlful, he pushed aside the onion sauce we'd labored over for hours (okay, just two hours, but still) and ate nothing but the plain pasta. Without so much as a nod of gratitude, he gave me back the bowl filled with a sad, unloved lump of caramelized onions (which I'm unashamed to admit I saved and tossed back into the leftovers).

I was horrified, but maintained my hostly demeanor.

When the night was over, through clenched teeth I thanked him for coming and from then on vowed only to make this much-cherished recipe for people I love most—last-minute dinner party guests notwithstanding.

What's the dish you'll only make for people you love the most? Share it with us in the comments below!
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Erin Alexander is the Assistant Editor of Partner Content at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.

38 Comments

pat November 3, 2019
Made this recipe because it sounded quick, simple and delicious. That is exactly what it is!!! Just made the caramelized onions, served with store bought pasta. Definitely a keeper at our house!!
 
allen November 3, 2019
Was this recipe written by Erin or Kenzi? Sounds like someone writing about someone else's recipe? Hmmm. Anyway, three things raise my blood pressure dependably. One is that authors/editors don't really proofread any more(since spellcheck, etc.). In this article, the sentence "Before working at Food52, I was a community member FIRST" is, I think, an example of writing as one would converse, which is rarely a good idea. The word "first" is unnecessary. Thankfully, this article is free of more generally found actual errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, etc.
In case you're wondering: 2. beginning a sentence with "So..." and 3.beginning a sentence with "I mean..."
As they say, "just sayin"!
 
pat November 3, 2019
It's a recipe....get over yourself!! This is not English 101 or a composition class! Move on if it bothers you to read!
 
Kim E. November 4, 2019
You seem to be a pompous ass, just sayin!
 
cstordy October 28, 2019
It is an intriguing recipe. I use Paprika app to remember these. I think it is a jerk move to not permit saving to this excellent app. Why exactly not?
 
Jan T. November 3, 2019
I use Paprika, too and save Food52 recipes all the time. Maybe contact Food 52, they respond fairly quickly to customer questions.
 
Mom October 28, 2019
For the people I love most there’s mainly one dish: Spanish Oxtail Stew bc it’s delicious and it takes at least 3-4 hours, but it tastes best the next day or even 2 days after the braising is complete. That is if you can keep the family from cadging portions as soon as the meat is just about to fall off the bone.

The other dish that my loved ones crave during the fall is Tong Yuen — a traditional Chinese seasonal soup with round dumplings made from sticky rice flour that represent the full moon. My grandmother, the soup whisperer, made Tong Yuen every fall for the family she doted on, and we looked forward to it every year. When she passed, my mother took on Tong Yuen duty. Now that she can no longer cook as a consequence of Alzheimer’s, I have inherited the recipe and love to cook it for our family when time permits. If you like mochi, this is a wonderful cold weather soup.
 
Michele November 3, 2019
Wow! Both of your dishes sound amazing and obviously, made with love :)
 
Mary P. October 27, 2019
May I use green onions? I have a ton from my garden I need to use up.
 
Jane November 4, 2019
Meaning add them as an additional ingredient? Or use green onions in place of regular onions? I'd say no if you mean the latter. Taste & texture (esp texture) would not be right. There are lots of great recipes that start with "charred scallion" to would help you use them up.
 
M October 21, 2019
Any reason you avoid making fresh pasta unless you have the whole day? This sauce seems like a perfect overlapping recipe, since it needs an hour to cook. It would take some practice to mix, knead, rest, laminate, and cut as the onions caramelize, but it sounds like a couple of hours is plenty of time to make dough, set it to rest, get onions caramelizing, roll & cut dough, quickly boil, and add to sauce.
 
Laura October 21, 2019
I do onions in my crock pot - and I also do them in the oven. Both methods work beautifully
 
Kim E. October 21, 2019
Made this recipe yesterday and my husband and I both loved it! It takes very little ingredients and it is delicious! Thank you!
 
Cynthiacarter58 October 20, 2019
I'm a plant Base eater. Any Recipes?
 
Bradley S. October 22, 2019
What do you think an onion is a fricking turtle??🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤡
 
Yummy October 22, 2019
Onions and wheat are both plants. Back to biology 101 for you, Cynthia Carter.
 
Adisak P. October 23, 2019
I'm assuming the butter and parmesan cheese are issues for you here? You could probably use olive oil or avocado oil instead of butter. You can blend in a teaspoon or two of almond butter or cashew butter at the end to get a creamier flavor. You can sprinkle with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan as well. And you can make fresh pasta from just flour and water. You'd end up with a vegan version that probably tastes very similar to the author's version with dairy.
 
Charlea October 27, 2019
Don't know why people are being so mean Cynthia. Of course butter is not plant based. I would guess that using a good quality olive oil would do as a tasty substitute. Don't let the haters get to you hon.
 
Charlea October 27, 2019
Unfortunate that your reply does not reflect the xristian love you showcase on your icon. She was talking about the butter.
 
Karen October 27, 2019
So she can't figure it out to substitute with plant based butter?
 
Stephanie A. October 27, 2019
What is plant based butter?
 
Elizabeth October 28, 2019
Not sure why you must eat this. There are plenty of vegan recipes on this site.
 
Stephanie A. October 28, 2019
Perhaps she feels like eating braised onions with pasta, but she happens to be vegan...? The other "plenty of vegan recipes" on this site, are not braised onions and pasta.
 
Joanne G. October 19, 2019
I want to try this soonest! Sounds delish...bo hoo to ur guest that refused to try..unless he has an allergy.. no excuse for bad behavior..and not an invited guest..2 strikes...
 
FrugalCat October 18, 2019
Sometimes I make a big batch of caramelized onions in my slow cooker. Would those work in this recipe?
 
Eric K. October 18, 2019
Probably!

Now I'm curious: How do you make caramelized onions in your slow cooker?
 
FrugalCat October 19, 2019
Well, technically they aren't caramelized, just cooked. But I make a batch and keep portions in small containers in my fridge. Really saves time- I can throw them into anything that would call for cooked onions and it's a huge head start.
How do I do it? Grease the crock with oil, put in enough thinly sliced white onions to fill it up ( I have a 2 quart cooker), drizzle with white balsamic vinegar and then sprinkle turbinado sugar on top. Cook on low for about 4 hours, until it's reduced down to almost jam like consistency.
 
Bryna L. October 17, 2019
Have you ever tried Marcella Hazan's onion pasta? It's the same principle, but it uses a massive amount of onions, like ten cups, cooked down very slowly in olive oil until they are all caramelized... add wine, finish with parsley. One of my favorite dishes every...
 
Madeline O. October 21, 2019
Had to look that one up after re-reading this recipe, and it's basically the same recipe. This one calls for even MORE onions per pasta ratio (1.5 lbs of onion to .75 pasta instead of 1.5 to 1 or 1.5 lbs pasta)...

SO glad I re-read this article! The slow-cooker onion tip has me wanting to start a batch @ 2am! :D
 
Tannisz October 17, 2019
Does the recipe call for sweet or dry Madeira? It sounds wonderful:)
 
tom October 17, 2019
No need to spend two hours standing over the stove. Oven caramelized onions in the cast iron pot pictured are easy and require little attention.
 
Ketochef October 21, 2019
What temp?
 
Sara L. October 17, 2019
Paella with real saffron and a perfect socarrat
 
CaffeineSpasms October 17, 2019
I deeply love this recipe. I made it a lot when I was living alone, far away from family. It’s a dish that I doesn’t ask much of your wallet but delivers big on the comfort and flavor.
 
tia October 17, 2019
I usually make a variation of this in the crock pot. I might have to use the time I save to make fresh pasta!
 
Madeline O. October 16, 2019
Yogurt. Mixed berry yogurt, to be exact. I gift peach to people I like a lot. But only the truly loved get mixed berry...
But I make "teh bestest," creamiest yogurt, regardless the flavor.
It's the one thing I can take pride in life for being able to do something really well.

My momma's pielmeni would be the other. That is only for the super special, since the shaping of them takes hours...
 
Tania October 16, 2019
Mousakka - because it takes me hours. No-knead bread - I discovered I’m allergic to wheat but I’ll make it for family.
 
Eric K. October 16, 2019
Can't wait to try this.

...and I'll cook it for the only person I love: me.