French Onion Penne
Published by Page Street Publishing Co.
To highlight the onion harvest, I’m giving onions the leading role in this comforting autumn dish, a quick and easy pasta version of French onion soup, complete with the familiar flavor of onions sweetened in red wine and broth. Snips of fresh rosemary enhance the layers of melted Gruyere and mozzarella cheese. I chose penne as it is one of my favorite pastas to use in a baked dish, with its hollowed core acting like a vessel, capturing all that ooey-gooey goodness that completes a chilly autumn evening.
- 1 pound (454 g) penne (ziti would work well too)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons (60 g) butter
- 3 medium yellow onions, halved then sliced about 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 large clove garlic, finely grated
- 1 cup (240 ml) dry red wine
- 1 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, center stem discarded
- 2 tablespoons (16 g) all-purpose, unbleached flour
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) beef stock
- 6 1/2 ounces (190 g) shredded Gruyere cheese
- 1–1 1⁄2 cups (112–168 g) shredded mozzarella
- Kosher salt
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water and add the pasta. Cook the pasta until it is 2 to 3 minutes shy of al dente, tender yet firm to the bite, according to the package directions.
In the meantime, in a large (roughly 5-quart [4.7-L]) enameled cast-iron pot over medium–high heat, warm the olive oil and butter. When the oil is hot and shimmery, and the butter is beginning to foam, add the onions and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring often, until tender and beginning to caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic, cooking and stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds.
Remove the pot from the heat, then add the wine and rosemary. Return the pot to moderate heat and let the wine cook until it has reduced almost completely, leaving behind a silky essence to coat the onions, about 10 minutes. If the pasta is not done yet, it’s fine to turn off the heat under the onions. When the pasta is ready, be sure to bring the onions back to a full simmer before proceeding; the pot will need to be hot to continue.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir well to incorporate. Gradually whisk in the beef stock and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to a simmer, then add the pasta and stir to mix well.
Stir in the milk and Gruyere cheese. Continue stirring to mix well and to thoroughly melt the cheese. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the top evenly with mozzarella. Set the broiler to high and place the pot under the broiler until the mozzarella is melted, 3 to 5 minutes—keeping a watchful eye as broiler temperatures vary.
Allow the pot to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving, to allow the mixture to thicken a bit.
If the mozzarella is too soft to shred, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes.