Friday, March 6, 2009

Homemade Orecchiette with an Onion Sherry Sauce & Herbs

*So I saved this image 4 times with 4 different rotations. No matter how I saved the file, it would not upload the photo properly. It always put the rosemary sprig to the right. Never facing up. Very odd. So that's why the pic is a little cockamamie.**

This dish is my paean to the Onion. Onions are one of the most obvious and available vegetables around. Cheap too. Usually they are used as the starting point for sauces or an addition to a marinade or the supporting role in a mirepoix. I discovered the magic of slow-cooked onions one Christmas when I decided I was going to make French Onion Soup. I dug through a slew of recipes and decided to meld 2 of them. One recipe called for cooking just the onions and butter for an hour. It was an old cookbook and had never thought to cook an onion for that long but I gave it a try. After 45 minutes of watching these onions go from eye-tearing white to a luscious caramel color I was hooked. They become so sweet and that raw intense onion flavor becomes nuanced. Cook onions this way and you will never forget the taste.

Orecchiette was the first pasta I ever made by hand. It was pretty rustic looking but fun to make and the name always struck me: “little ears”. Bill Buford writes about this pasta in “Heat” when he was chronicling the adventures at Mario Batali’s Babbo and I know it has a much more storied past than that. Mixing the dough, rolling it into ‘ropes’ and making the orecchiette only took about 45 minutes and I made this work with the recipe because the onions take a long low and slow cooking.
You don’t need any fancy machines or tools for this pasta which is another reason I like it so much. Plus, the ‘little ears’ cradle the perfect amount of sauce.


½ Cup warm water
¾ Teaspoon Sea Salt
1 ¼ Cups Semolina Flour
1. Stir together water and sea salt in a bowl until salt has dissolved. 2. Form a well with the semolina and slowly add the water. Incorporate the water with the flour using a fork. Add more water as needed. Once all the water is included you should have an elastic dough ready to knead. 3. Cut half the dough and roll it into 2 ropes. Slice these into quarter-inch thick pieces. 4. Flour your hands and press your thumb down into the center of the pasta. Make one circular rotation pressing lightly on the pasta. That should be enough to form a ‘little ear.’ If you are difficulty on a counter top, place the pasta in the palm of your hand and use your other hand to shape. Continue until all your pasta is made.

Onion Sherry Sauce

2 Onions
3 Tbls Butter
½ Cup Sherry
¼ Cup Chx Broth
1 Tspn chopped, fresh Thyme
1 Small Sprig of Rosemary, chopped fine
Salt & White pepper*

1. Halve the onion then slice it in long, thin strands.
2. Add to a large skillet with the butter. Put the flame on low. Cover for fifteen minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for 25 minutes on low heat. The onions should be soft and browning.
3. While the onions are cooking, in a separate pot pour in all the liquid and reduce by half. Add a bay leaf if you like.
4. Add the thyme and rosemary to the onions along with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Add half the sherry/broth mixture. Stir. Let the liquid reduce slightly and add the rest of the mixture.

1. Bring salted water to a boil. Add orecchiette. Cook until al dente. This usually takes about 4-5 minutes because of the hard semolina flour. Taste one before you strain.
2. Once strained add the orecchiette to the Onion Sherry sauce. Coat well and serve. Sprinkle with some extra diced herbs

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