Hue and Cry: Baked Onions, Southern Italian Style

For a different approach to baked onions, try this Italian recipe.

| February/March 1995

Serves 6

In most regions of Italy, baked onions are served as vegetables or cut into sections to include on antipasto platters. They are traditionally prepared in winter with storage onions. They also make a nice main course preceded by a soup and followed by a salad. This dish is ­inspired by the flavors of southern Italy: olive oil, anchovies, and the sweet and sour of currants, wine, vinegar, and capers. If you don’t care for anchovies, you may substitute 3 ounces of finely diced baked ham, prosciutto, or lamb, or 3 ounces of pancetta, finely diced and rendered crisp.

  • 6 medium white or yellow onions,
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds
  • 6 whole salt-pack anchovies, or 12 anchovy fillets
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup currants or raisins
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons imported dry Marsala
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon small capers

1. Remove the outer skins of the onions. Trim a little from the root ends so that the onions will sit well in a baking dish and cut an X in the root ends. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, lower the heat, salt lightly, and cook the onions at a vigorous simmer for 15 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Slice 1/2 inch from the top of each onion. Remove the centers, leaving at least four layers of onion to hold the filling, and place the onion shells upside down to drain. Reserve the centers.

2. Rinse and bone the salt-pack anchovies. Finely chop the anchovy fillets and half of the reserved onion centers and mix them in a bowl. Reserve the remaining centers for another use.

3. Place 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan and heat over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the bread crumbs and sauté until they are light golden brown. Add the bread crumbs with the currants to the anchovies and onions. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Fill the onion shells with the stuffing mixture and place them in a baking dish that just holds them comfortably. Drizzle on the remaining olive oil. Break the thyme sprigs into pieces and scatter them over the onions. Sprinkle the onions with Marsala and vinegar, and salt and pepper lightly.

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