Caramelized onions, pasta, and a generous topping of fresh parmesan — this is simple goodness. Comfort food if you ask me. The first time I ate this, we were visiting our friend Carol in South Texas. She lives in the tiny town of Ganado, where she’s a farmer and a cattle rancher. Her mom Jerry Cappadonna had us over for lunch one afternoon and prepared this little surprise of a dish. I wasn’t sure what to think as she sat our plates down in front of us because it really was just caramelized onions, pasta, and parmesan, but I was hooked on the first bite. And, I’m pretty sure I had seconds.
The rich sweetness of the caramelized onions, and the pungent sharpness of the parmesan make this a more complex melding of flavors than you’d think. And along with all that savory richness comes some excellent health benefits from the pasta and onions.
Wait. What? Pasta is good for you?
According to Dr. Andrew Weil we should be eating 2 to 3 servings of pasta prepared al dente per week. Who knew all that pasta was recommended? And, in a food pyramid too.
I use organic, 100% whole wheat pasta because I’m eating less white foods (yep, I’m talking about white bread, potatoes, white rice, all of which I love). But the whole wheat pasta is really flavorful, it’s more filling, so you don’t eat as much, and that’s really good for our waist lines. Plus, the 100% whole wheat pasta is a whole grain and according to Dr. Weil, we should be eating three to five servings of whole or cracked grains per day. That’s every day. That sounds like a whole lot of grains.
And then there’s the glorious sweet yellow onion.
What would cooking be without this steady culinary companion? It’s amazing how a little olive oil and heat can turn a sharp onion into a sweet — I could swear there’s sugar in here — kind of thing. And the health benefits of onions are numerous. They ward off cancers, especially lung cancer, heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and bacterial infections. When I first moved to Dallas, I studied healing with herbs and my teacher taught us to place a poultice of onions onto the chest for congestion — it stunk up the bedroom, but it helped. She also told us to never throw away onion skins, instead burn them in your fireplace or outdoor fire pit for prosperity. I always — I mean always burn my onion skins.
Chances are, at any given time, you have at least one onion, some sort of pasta, and hopefully a nice hunk of parmesan. Quick, easy, yet complex, this dish is magic.
Caramelized Onions, Pasta, & Parmesan
1 lb. pasta of your choice cooked according to package directions for al dente — I used 100% whole wheat penne pasta
3 sweet yellow onions sliced into rings
3 tbsp olive oil
hearty pinch sea salt
hearty pinch fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
4 large cloves of garlic minced
Preparing the Pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
Preparing the Caramelized Onions:
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet (reserving 1 tbsp of olive oil for later use). Add the sliced onions, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I like using my paella pan because it is enormous.
Saute the onions on medium heat until translucent stirring frequently.
When the onions are translucent turn the heat to high and begin to caramelize the onions. Stir frequently and don’t let them burn – they can very easily go from beautiful to burnt.
The pasta should be al denta and drained by now. Add the drained pasta directly into the caramelized onions along with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and minced garlic. Reduce heat to medium and stir it all together mixing it completely for 3 to 5 minutes.
Serve with a good quality freshly shredded parmesan. I prefer Grana Padano.
Serves 6 to 8