I bought a big cookbook with recipes from all over Italy; it’s a behemoth with 5,000 regional recipes inside.
I’m in heaven. I spent a few evenings just browsing the pages, highlighting what I want to make, and I’ve barely made a dent in the book.
My favorites are the “poor” dishes with vegetables and legumes.
A lot of the recipes are very simple, but don’t be fooled. When made with quality ingredients, the simplicity allows you to savor pure taste and wonderfulness and life.
Here are a few photos of the book. When I first saw the cover I was afraid it was going to be a cutesy book, but the inside is very straightforward without any frills. Just five-thousand recipes from around the entire country. It contains the classics as well as more obscure dishes, and the recipes range from ‘why-do-I-need-a-recipe-for-this’-simple to very complex.
The first recipe I made from the book comes from the Southern region of Basilicata. It is called Cipolline in forno and is a simple baked mini-onion dish with emphasis on the simple- you barely need a recipe to make this. But the results are so tasty.
Here’s the recipe in Italian if you’d like to see it:
You’ll need cipolline for this recipe, but if you can’t find them I suppose regular onions or those tiny round pearl onions will do. As far as I was able to find out, cipolline are regular onions that are harvested when they are immature and thus smaller. The ones I bought were about 3.5 centimeters in diameter.
You’ll also need extra virgin olive oil, white wine, broth, and salt and pepper.
Peeling the onions took a while and involved lots of crying. The author (like most Italian recipe writers) doesn’t specify exact quantites and doesn’t mention an oven temperature. Italians seem to fly by the seat of their pants when cooking. The ingredients in this recipe don’t need to be very precise for it to turn out well though.
I made a half-recipe and used three tablespoons of oil, which I think turned out to be a little too much, but when I think about the sheer quantity of oil I’ve seen Southern Italians using in the kitchen, it probably was okay. Besides, the recipe calls for “abundant oil” to translate literally. Just use whatever suits your taste. As for the wine, if you need an amount, half a glass is around 125 ml. Out of curiosity I filled my ladle with water and measured it and it was around 150 ml. I used vegetable broth.
Cipolline in forno
1 kg (2.2 lb) small onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Half a glass of white wine
A ladle-full of good broth, hot
Freshly ground salt and pepper
-Peel the onions and place them on the bottom of a baking pan. Pour a generous amount of oil on top of them. Add salt and pepper and put it in the oven.
-Let it cook for twenty minutes, then pour the wine on top and put it back in the oven to continue cooking.
-Moisten the dish every so often with small quantities of hot broth.
-Turn the onions every so often (that’s not in the recipe but it helped).
-Serve hot, covered with the liquid from the bottom of the pan.
It took about an hour for me to cook the onions, but my oven is ridiculously imprecise. I was aiming for about 350°F / 176°C, but who knows. Just watch them. They will be done when soft and you can easily pierce them with a fork and get the fork out again.
I think the onions are ten times better when you let them sit for a few hours to cool and eat them at room temperature. Magic happens with the flavor when you let them sit. They were amazing the next day too, I just let them sit out all night.
I know, that freaks the heck out of my family, but I relaxed my refrigeration standards for prepared dishes after watching Italians leave their food out overnight. I just didn’t want to refrigerate the leftovers and make the onions and liquid cold and hard and then possibly reheat it after they were cooked perfectly.
Here are a few photos of the process:
With oil, salt and pepper and about to go in the oven
Twenty minutes later I added the wine and turned them.