5 Ingredients or Fewer

Onion-Buttered Noodles

December 20, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.
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

Watch This Recipe
Onion-Buttered Noodles
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
Ingredients
  • 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)
In This Recipe
Directions
  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.

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  • Tracy Thompson
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    mikky
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in November 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

4 Reviews

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.
 
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!