An onion sauce for spaghetti or linguine

An onion sauce for spaghetti or linguine

By
From
The Sunday Night Book
Serves
4
Photographer
Patricia Niven

The idea for this seductively simple recipe comes from a very fine individual called Joe Roberts. Our friendship is mainly web-based, where he fills the pages of social media with vibrant talk of India, literature of all sorts, art, his family and, of course, cooking. Of his original recipe, he says: ‘I’m interested in very simple cookery right now, but using the best possible ingredients. The black peppercorns are really necessary, and I find that heating them in a dry pan and then grinding them adds a wonderful aroma… This is one of those dishes, like cacio e pepe, that is magically more than the sum of its parts.’

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
generous splash extra virgin olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
3 large brown onions, very finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon brown sugar, (optional)
good splash cider vinegar or sherry vinegar
500g spaghetti or linguine
sea salt
70g freshly grated pecorino cheese, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Put the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan with a lid and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the anchovies and dissolve in the oil by breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Add the onions and garlic, put the lid on the pan, and keep cooking for at least 15 minutes or until the onions are good and brown.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the peppercorns in a dry frying pan until they are aromatic and then grind them quite finely in a pestle and mortar. Add to the pan of onions, along with the thyme leaves. Taste the onions – they should have a sweetness to them. If they don’t taste sweet at all, you could add a teaspoonful of brown sugar, but this isn’t usually needed. Add the vinegar and check the seasoning, bearing in mind the saltiness of the anchovies. Add the pecorino, if you’re going to be using it (Joe says he finds this just as good without the cheese). The sauce should have a delicious ‘agrodolce’, or sour-sweet, taste.
  3. Cook the pasta as instructed the packet (Joe usually goes for a minute less than the suggested cooking time). Drain well, then stir through the onion sauce and serve – with grated pecorino on the side, if you like.
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