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French Onion Pasta
French Onion Pasta

Food&Travel

French Onion Pasta

French Onion Pasta

Transform your preferred soup into a satisfying dinner by combining caramelized onions and breadcrumb-coated cheese with pasta.

The rich and sweet caramelized onions in this recipe, paired with a flavorful combination of broth, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, Parmesan, and cheese, elevate this French onion pasta dish to unforgettable heights. Inspired by the classic French onion soup, the sauce offers a perfect balance of body and richness, yet remains light enough to delicately coat the al dente bucatini. Fresh thyme and bay leaf contribute herbaceous depth, while a sprinkle of buttery, toasted breadcrumbs provides delightful crunchy texture in every bite. If you don’t have bucatini, feel free to use any long noodle variety you have on hand.

Frequently asked questions

What does French onion taste like?

French onion soup is a traditional dish characterized by caramelized onions, beef broth, and a crouton garnished with melted Gruyère cheese, creating a harmonious blend of salty, sweet, and savory tastes.

What is bucatini?

Bucatini is a robust, lengthy pasta with a hollow core that absorbs sauce as it cooks, favored particularly in Rome and the Lazio region of Italy.

Notes from the Food & Wine Test Kitchen

While caramelizing the onions, remember to scrape the bottom of the pot occasionally to prevent burning and to incorporate the browned bits back into the onion mixture. When adding Gruyère cheese to the pasta, avoid adding it all at once as it tends to clump. It’s best to avoid using pre-grated cheese as it may not melt properly into the sauce. Remove the pot from the heat before gradually adding the cheese, stirring continuously; the residual heat will melt the cheese gently. Wait to add the cheese to the breadcrumb mixture until ready to serve to prevent the moisture from softening the crispy breadcrumbs.

Ingredients

Pasta

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil (such as canola oil)
  • 4 large (12 ounces each) red onions, thinly sliced (about 10 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups unsalted beef or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 (5-inch) thyme sprigs
  • 1 (2 1/2-inch) fresh or dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup packed)
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 (12ounce) package bucatini pasta

Gruyère breadcrumbs

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated with a Microplane grater (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ounce Gruyère cheese, finely grated with a Microplane grater (about 2/3 cup), plus more for garnish

Directions

Step 1

Prepare the Pasta

In a large Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stirring until the onions are evenly coated in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the onions are deep golden brown, very soft, and jam-like, taking about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Reserve 1/2 cup of the caramelized onions in a small bowl and set aside.

Step 2

While onions cook, prepare the Gruyère Breadcrumbs

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add panko, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly. Cook until the panko is toasted and turns golden brown, which typically takes about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the panko mixture to a medium bowl and allow it to cool until you’re ready to use it.

Step 3

When the onions are almost finished caramelizing, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until it is al dente according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta, but remember to save 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Step 4

Once the onions have caramelized, add sherry to the Dutch oven, scraping the bottom to release and dissolve any browned bits. Cook and stir constantly until the sherry has evaporated and the alcohol smell has disappeared, which usually takes about 1 minute. Stir in flour until the onions are evenly coated. Then, add broth, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Allow it to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has slightly reduced and thickened, approximately 5 minutes. Finally, remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

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Step 5

Take the Dutch oven off the heat and slowly incorporate Parmigiano-Reggiano and shredded Gruyère cheese, adding one handful at a time until melted. Add the drained pasta along with 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, tossing until thoroughly combined. Keep tossing until the pasta is evenly coated with a glossy sauce, adding the remaining 1/4 cup of cooking water gradually, if necessary. Mix in the reserved caramelized onions until evenly distributed.

Step 6

Divide the pasta evenly among 4 bowls. Mix grated Gruyère cheese into the breadcrumbs, then sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pasta. Garnish with extra thyme leaves and grated Gruyère. Serve promptly.

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