Caramelized Onion Pasta

This caramelized onion pasta is an inexpensive, yet incredibly satisfying weeknight supper of pasta, tender caramelized onions, and Italian sausage.

An oval serving dish filled with caramelized onion pasta and two large serving spoons nestled into it.

There’s an old chef’s adage that claims, “Brown food tastes good.” It’s so true. Anything that’s cooked to a caramelized, deep golden brown color can make your mouth water before even taking a bite. Here, it’s slow-cooked caramelized onions that have a starring role with pasta with their intense sweet bitter flavors. Sausage plays a part, but more as a supporting actor whose occasional lines set up the star for even more glory. And the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, mixed with some wine or vermouth, are the all-important soundtrack that brings the whole pasta dish together.–Claire Tansey

Caramelized Onion Pasta

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
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Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.

While the water comes to a boil, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir well to combine. Cook, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat as necessary so the onions don’t burn, for 10 minutes.

Add the sausage to the skillet, using a spoon to crumble the sausage, and stir it into the onions. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are deeply golden brown, about 25 minutes more.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions. 

When the pasta is tender, scoop out 1 cup of the pasta water with a measuring cup. Drain the pasta.

Slowly pour 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and the wine over the onions and sausage. Cook, stirring and scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the cooked pasta. If the sauce seems a touch too thick, add more of the reserved pasta cooking water, a little at a time.

Serve it straight from the skillet or dump the pasta into a large bowl. Grate some Parmesan over the top and, if desired, grind some black pepper over the pasta.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Hands down, this is my new go-to. It’s cheap. It makes about 6 servings and the leftovers reheat well. It’s versatile since you can use any sausage that suits you. It takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. It looks super fancy in a fancy dish. It looks like a casual weeknight meal if you serve it right from the skillet. Have I sold you yet?

I used a 16-oz box of pasta and the ratio of pasta to sausage to onion was just fine. I got a tad worried because it looked like a TON of onions in my 16-inch skillet. Medium onions at my grocery store are still pretty giant—2 of the smallest ones rang in at 26 ounces untrimmed. As expected, they cooked down to what looked like practically nothing. I did cook them for a minute or 2 before I added 4 links of mild Italian sausage. The onions were lovely and deeply brown and the sausage formed those crispy bits after about 20 minutes—more than enough time to get the water boiling and the pasta cooked and drained.

I used Pinot Grigio (which was lovely to drink WITH this pasta dish) and ended up adding a total of 1/2 cup of pasta water.

The final dish was excellent and I will try it again. The sausage used came from my Italian store and the quality is excellent. The final dish was delicious and adding the wine and 1/2 cup pasta water made a very nice sauce for the orecchiette pasta.


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