Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sweet And Sour Onions...Cipolline in Agrodolce II

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Modena's aceto balsamico dates back at least to the 11th century, when a written record reports the delivery of a barrel of the extraordinary vinegar to Emperor Henry III as a coronation gift. For centuries, the aceto was made by the local families only for their own use, with the barrels often a prized inclusion in a young woman's dowry.

Here, the aromatic vinegar is combined with sugar to create a rich sweet-and-sour brown glaze for small onions, a favorite dish both in the birthplace of aceto balsamico and in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna's neighbor to the north. Serve warm for the best flavor as an accompaniment to roast pork or turkey.

If you want to serve something different this Thanksgiving, try this recipe.   It's a good substitute for the creamed onions I so loved.  If you do, you will not have to worry about making a gravy for the turkey.  Trust me.

A couple of years ago I posted a recipe for Cipolline in Agrodolce that was good but nowhere as delicious and authentic as this one.  Last week I spotted a few boxes of cipollini at the grocery store here in Georgia and, in spite of the price, could not resist the impulse.  Think Manolo Blahnik of the onion world...$3.99 for a box of 4. Yes,  that is right, but you know what? they are worth every penny so I looked inside my cart,  took out a couple of things I really didn't need (like milk),  and picked up a couple of boxes.   On my daughter's birthday I served them with broiled pork chops brushed in the final minutes of cooking with some of the balsamic sauce.  To die for...

Mashed potatoes and a pear tart  rounded up the meal.

If you can't find cipollini go ahead and substitute regular pearl onions, but I strongly suggest you make the effort to try one of the best and sweetest onions you will ever taste.  Yes, and that includes Vidalias. Sorry Southern people, the Italians have you beat on this one.

For past Thanksgiving Menus and recipes, enter the word Thanksgiving in the Search box.

Serves 6


  • 2 lb. cipolline or pearl onions
  • 2 cups meat stock
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the onions and cook for 30 seconds. Drain and place under cold running water to halt the cooking. Drain again. Using a small, sharp knife, trim off the root ends and slip off the skins. Do not cut the onions too deeply or they will fall apart.

In a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat, combine the onions, stock and butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are partially cooked, about 30 minutes.

Uncover the pan and stir in the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, shaking the pan occasionally, until the onions are very tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Add a little warm water if needed to keep the onions moist.

Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).


  1. I've been looking for a recipe for these for ages. Thanks! I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I found several bags of cipolline in the "half-off" bin at my local grocers and I bought them all!

  2. This is a mouth-wateringly delicious recipe! Boy and I are guests of friends in Connecticut for Thanksgiving this year. When we don't have Thanksgiving at home (no left overs!) we make a small Thanksgiving dinner just for ourselves the next day -- a roasted turkey breast instead of whole bird, etc. These onions appear to be the PERFECT accompaniment for the meal I shall cook for us on Friday. Hope yours is wonderful, m'dear! Reggie

  3. Carol,

    When I went back for more, the produce manager (now my best friend)
    gave me what was left for half so he could order more and I was thrilled. Enjoy!

  4. Reg,

    This year there will only be the two of us for Thanksgiving and I, like you, will be cooking the whole menu but with a turkey breast instead of the whole bird. What would Thanksgiving be without leftovers! Do give these a try, they are easy to make and marvelous, with turkey or roast pork.

    Have a happy one, dear friend.

  5. This sounds wonderful! I have only used Cipollini once. I saw a recipe for Vanilla Scented Cipollini Onions, but none of us liked it (as much as we all love both vanilla and onions, the two just didn't mix for us). I think I might just have to add these to my Christmas table this year!

  6. Chris,

    No, vanilla and onions don't work for me either. Give these a try, you wont be disappointed. Thanks for dropping by.

    1. I did make these for Christmas to go with a Dijon Crusted Roast Beef. They were delicious! Sadly, of course, because I was looking for them, I couldn't find the cipollini and had to use pearls. I tweaked it just a bit to make the broth richer for my brother-in-law... more butter, a little cornstarch, and some beef bouillon. You're definitely right - saved me from making gravy. ;)

      My pictures came out terrible (of almost everything that day), but I'll be posting this with a link back to you so everyone can see what it was SUPPOSED TO look like and can check out your blog. Hope you had a wonderful holiday!!


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