“It looks like something I would have made, ” my step mom text-messaged after I sent her a picture of the Caramelized Onion and Basil Pasta that I created last night. Of course it looks like something she would make. She and her Italian heritage are the foundation upon which my cooking skills were based. I grew up watching and dining on the robust and savory authentic Italian meals Robin, her mother Alice, and her Nonni created in their kitchens.
Lately, the Internet is full of recipes with caramelized onions, and loving the savory, sweet, and decadent flavor of the toffee-like onions, I decided to create a meal with the onion as the star of the dish with a tip-of-the-tongue taste of basil.
By the way, ever wanted to know how to create perfect strips of basil? The technique is a chiffonade. My dad taught me this years ago. Here’s a simple tutorial on Fine Dining’s Website: Knife Skills: Cutting a Chiffonade of Basil. It’s simple and fast! Anyway, I digress, on to my recipe!
- 3/4 - 1 whole medium onion (cut into half circle pieces)
- Wide noodles (I used 3/4 of a bag of noodles)
- 1 tbsp butter (vegan or regular butter)
- 3/4 tsp brown sugar
- 1 bunch brocolli
- 1 small handful pine nuts
- 4 large basil leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp chopped parsely
- Set oven to 350 F
- Sprinkle handful of pine nuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 F for 5-10 minutes
- Cut 3/4 or 1 whole medium onion into half circle strips. I cut the onion in half and then cut downward on a diagonal to make half circle strips (see picture below). PLEASE be careful.
- Heat sauté pan on the stove at medium heat.
- Add 1tbsp butter (dairy or non) to the pan - test for sizzle prior to adding onions.
- Add the onions to the pan and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. For a proper cook, be sure the onions are not crowding each other in the pan.
- After 5 minutes, add 1/2 tsp of brown sugar (save the last 1/4 tsp) and stir.
- Reduce heat to low and cook for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally - be careful not to burn the onions. You want them to be browned and caramelized to reach that wonderful toffee-like flavor and texture.
- While the onions are cooking, boil 10 cups of water in a stockpot and cook the pasta
- In the meantime, chop your broccoli into florets. When at least 2 minutes remain on the pasta cook, add the broccoli to the boiling pasta. This will allow the broccoli to blanch along with the cooking pasta, and it saves you an extra sauce pan.
- When the onions are nearly done, add the basil strips and the last 1/4 tsp of brown sugar to the onions and stir.
- When pasta is done, drain along with the broccoli and pour back into the stockpot.
- Add the onion and basil mixture to the stockpot and toss.
- Serve with fresh cut parsley and the toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top.
My step-mother’s simple phrase, “It looks like something I would have made” is always the highest of praise I can receive. She is an excellent and talented home cook, and her opinion means the world to me.
I hope you enjoy the dish as much as Anthony and I did. One bit of advice: as this dish is extraordinarily savory, I recommend a salad on the side with fruit and a sweet salad dressing. We like to add chopped strawberries and blueberries to our salad when we are eating a savory entree. It’s a nice balance. Enjoy!