29 May 2014

AUNTIE PASTA: The Sweet Reds of Tropea

CHIAVARI, Italy - Calabria  is a rugged region in the most southern part of Italy, set between two seas, the  Tyrrhenian and Ionian, and the Appenine mountains. There are many delicious dishes that come out of Calabria, and one of the stars of the Calabrian cuisine is the red onion of Tropea, a town in the province of Vibo Valentia.
The Port of Tropea  

The red onions of Tropea are so sweet and crisp you can eat them raw in a simple tomato salad dressed with local olive oil. They are also incredibly delicious when cooked to a soft sweetness and put together with Calabria’s favorite pasta, which is called fileja.  Fileja is still made by hand in many Calabrian kitchens. It’s a time consuming process as each piece of dough must be wrapped around a wire, a ferretto in Calabrese dialect, to give the fileja its unusual shape. Most of the ferretti in use today have been handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter, as it is the women who keep this tradition alive.
Hand Made Fileja  
My love affair with pasta and onions began a long time ago, but it wasn’t until years later that I learned that this fast and simple dish was a classic Calabrian recipe Calabrese grandmothers have been making for hundreds of years. Tropea onions are not always in the market, but this week they are.   

Locals in Tropea claim that these onions are so delicious that one of the town’s gelateria makes “cipolla di Tropea” gelato. I not entirely convinced onion gelato is a good idea, but I may be wrong. They also make squid ink gelato and gelato flavored with a spicy salami called nduja. Those flavors might be good but I think I’ll  pass up the gelato and stick with pasta and onions, thank you.
Red Onions of Tropea on Sale at the Market in Chiavari
Pasta with Red Onions of Tropea

180 g short pasta (such as rigatoni, penne , paccheri , fusilli and Calabrian fileja , etc.) (about 1 ½ cups of pasta, but you might want to increase that amount for heartier appetites)
400 g of onions (a little less than a pound)
1 clove of garlic 200 ml white wine (about a cup)
1 tablespoon of grated pecorino  
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Peel the onions , cut them in half and then in half again in the other direction this time . Slice each piece into thin slices.
Stick a toothpick in whole clove of garlic. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onions and after a couple of seconds add the garlic and onions. Mix together gently.

The onions don’t take long to cook so this is a good time to put a pot of water on for the pasta. Salt the water, cover the pot and increase the heat.

Back to the onions. Cook them for a few minutes and then add a pinch of salt , a big pinch of black pepper and white wine. Stir well, cover and cook for about ten minutes. Check the onions now and again to make sure they do not dry out.  If all the liquid has evaporated, you can add a ladle of the cooking water from the pasta.  

After cooking the onions become soft . Taste them to see if they need more salt and then take out the   garlic clove . Combine the grated cheese and stir it into the onions. For a vegan pasta with red onions do not add the cheese, you can add chopped parsley if you like.
Add the pasta to the sauce.

Serve with a glass of white Calabrian wine and you have a feast fit for a king – or queen.

Suggestion: Try using whole wheat pasta for this recipe, it’s a good combination.

This recipe and photos (except for the photo taken at Chiavari market which is mine) were taken from: http://www.chiccacook.it/crudo-cotto/primi/pasta-con-cipolle-di-tropea/

1 comment:

  1. I just love what I have seen and read!!!!!!!!! Very very cool, I have never been to Italy yet, but is on me and my husbands bucket list!!!!!!