5 Ingredients or Fewer

Onion-Buttered Noodles

December 20, 2021
14 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

When you don’t know what to make for dinner, make this. If you have pasta, onions, and butter, you are halfway there. Deeply sautéed (but not totally caramelized, in the name of Busy Weeknights), this recipe capitalizes on the savory sweetness, and sweet savoriness, that comes when you throw a bunch of onions in a buttery skillet and wait. But that’s not the best part. Just before serving, as you’re tossing the noodles with more butter and starchy water, you throw in a couple spoonfuls of minced onion, and this little surprise is what sends the dish into another dimension. Like a splash of vinegar or squeeze of lemon, raw onion brightens the dish, balancing all the elements.

A few tips: If you don’t have salted butter, simply increase the salt to taste. Any long noodle works wonders here, from spaghetti to bucatini to the ones listed below. If you only have something stumpy, like rigatoni or penne, that will work in a pinch. You can pick a bonus garnish or two, if you’d like, and toss in or sprinkle on top just before serving: Chopped herbs, such as dill, parsley, or chives. Toasted sesame seeds or chopped walnuts. Grated Parmesan or pecorino. A sprinkle of red pepper flakes or spoonful of Calabrian chile paste. —Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Onion-Buttered Noodles
  • 1 3/4 pounds yellow onions
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces long pasta, such as fettuccine or pappardelle
  • 1 to 2 garnishes (optional, see Author Notes)
  1. Halve, peel, and thinly slice the onions. Mince just enough sliced onion to yield 2 tablespoons, then set that aside.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the sliced onions. Generously season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden and jammy, 25 to 35 minutes, stirring often and lowering the heat as needed to avoid scorching; you can add a splash of water every so often if needed to deglaze if the onions threaten to burn. When they’re done, drop the heat to as low as possible to keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and set over high heat to come to a boil. When the water is boiling, generously season with salt, then add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
  4. With the skillet still over low heat, use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to the skillet with the onions (and don’t drain that water). Add the minced onion, remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, and ¼ cup of pasta water, then toss everything together. Add more pasta water if needed to reach a sauce consistency you love, keeping in mind that it’ll thicken as it sits. Toss in or sprinkle with a bonus or two, if you’d like.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • cdianebourne
  • ThisMomCooks
  • Dr Moira Phillips
    Dr Moira Phillips
  • Tracy Thompson
    Tracy Thompson
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

8 Reviews

cdianebourne January 25, 2024
Bought a mandolin just for this recipe- used basic recipe the first time- subsequently added a little julienned sun-dried tomatoes about five minutes before the onions were done. They tinted the sauce to a pretty pink color, and added some eye appeal- the sweet taste worked well with the sweet onions. I served it with a mixed green salad with a vinaigrette to contrast with the sweet pasta.
Everyone I've made this for has loved it, including a committed onion-phobe I'd invited not realizing she had a strong aversion to onions.
I didn't realize how much my contacts had protected my eyes until I cut onion bare-eyed and very wet-cheeked.
ThisMomCooks May 8, 2022
Sooooo. I've been feeling Italy lately and on an Italian food kick. I made this recipe last week and it was a HUGE hit in my house. I used bucatini as my pasta, and I made a whole box...so I used extra butter but kept everything else the same.

Seriously. This is a VERY simple recipe AND company worthy. Perfect for busy families and those that cook for them. What I love about this recipe is that you can add whatever toppings you want. We added crushed red pepper and shaved Parmesan. I think crumbled Italian sausage and roasted garlic would be amazing. Or sautéed zucchini and sun dried tomatoes...the options are unlimited.

Next time we have dinner guests, I am going to make this but do a pasta bar. Have lots of topping so people can "finish" their dish and choose what they want.

Guuuyyyyyyssssss, it really is amazing! (Oh, and turned out that a whole box of pasta was too much for my family...but this reheated well!)
Dr M. April 19, 2022
This is the most delicious pasta ever. Sweating the onions takes forever but worth every second. The result is purely sublime. Wow!
Tracy T. January 12, 2022
added some left over pancetta and it was DELICIOUS!
Bobnotbob612 January 8, 2022
Came out great. Super comforting. I topped with a hefty sprinkle of nutritional yeast. Would remake. I'm a vegetarian but I nice pork cutlet or schnitzel would be delicious with it.
shoepershopper October 15, 2022
I was thinking of a chicken cutlet to add a little protein to this and that sounds perfect.
veronica S. January 6, 2022
Easy and awesome. I used butter noodles instead and as suggested fettuccine would have blended in with the thinly sliced onions more. Onion texture was great!!
Thank you!
mikky December 21, 2021
easy and delicious!