Umido di Cipolla (Pasta with Onions and Tomato)

March 22, 2014
5 Ratings
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

The richness and depth of this slow-cooked sauce -- consisting of a lot of onions and a little tomato purée -- make it the perfect preliminary to roasted or grilled meat. My guests always purr. But it’s also great just to pull out of the freezer and heat when you need comforting. (The parsley in the picture is a slight variation; you could use sautéed mushrooms if you like.)
From "Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way" by Oretta Zanini De Vita and Maureen B. Fant (W. W. Norton, 2013), p. 133. —Maureen Fant

What You'll Need
  • For the condiment
  • 2 1/2 pounds white onions, very thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, preferably lightly fruity
  • 2/3 cup tomato purée
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • To make the dish
  • 1 pound pasta, almost any kind except pastina or angel hair
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-reggiano
  1. Put the onions in a large pan, preferably terra cotta, with the butter and oil. Sauté over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until quite soft, being careful not to let them brown beyond a golden beige.
  2. Add 1/2 cup (100 milliliters) water, let it evaporate somewhat, then add the tomato purée and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions have practically turned to mush, about 50 to 60 minutes. Add the salt and a few grindings of pepper.
  3. Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons kosher salt, then add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until very al dente. Reserve a ladleful of the water.
  4. Drain the pasta and add it to the onions. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Toss over low heat until the pasta has absorbed the liquid.
  5. Warm a serving bowl or platter in a low oven. If using the oven is not practical, warm the bowl just before use with hot water, or even a ladleful of the pasta-cooking water. Transfer the pasta to the heated bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve immediately.

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Coauthor of "Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way," "Dictionary of Italian Cuisine," and "Women’s Life in Greece and Rome." Author of "Eat like the Romans: the Visitor's Food Guide," Trattorias of Rome, Florence, and Venice," and Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World "Rome." Translator of "Encyclopedia of Pasta" and "Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome and Lazio." I came to Rome because of my studies of classics and archaeology and stayed for other reasons.

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