I call dishes like this “Stone Soup” after the classic children’s tale where the whole town claims to have no food to prepare a proper meal.
A visiting stranger offers a recipe for “stone soup,” which encourages each villager to contribute a little something. A carrot here, an onion there, some rice, some beans and, suddenly, the whole community is enjoying a bowl of goodness. I have written about these types of dishes here and here.
Like the villagers in the story, I had next to nothing in my fridge one recent evening, but I looked around at what was available and an idea took shape. I am confident that even the barest cupboards would likely have an onion or two, a box of dry pasta, some butter or oil and some Parmesan cheese.
If you have those items and can exercise patience, deliciousness awaits. The key is to take your time caramelizing the onion — at least 45 minutes to an hour. The dish is worth the wait!
Stone Soup Caramelized Onion Pasta
If you are a fan of onion soup you will like this dish!
1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or oil
Generous sprinkle fresh ground pepper
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Box of dry pasta
¼ -½ cup pasta water
In a large skillet over medium-low, melt the butter and place the onions in a single layer (use a pan large enough to avoid stacking.) Reduce the heat to low, and allow the onions to cook very slowly over the next 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions will become brown and soft and jammy — they should not sizzle or crisp at the edges! As the onions are nearing doneness, add the salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta to al dente in well-salted water according to package directions (1 minute less than instructed). Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and pour it into the skillet with the onions.
Add a bit of the water to move the onions around, then add the Parmesan cheese, sprinkling in the water very gradually to help the cheese melt and coat the pasta (you probably won’t need all the water.)