Cippolini onions are not often seen in stores, so a sighting is a significant event for me. Cippolinis are delicate and sweet, small and savoury, lending themselves to caramelization in the oven and a bath in a bold sweet/sour agrodolce syrup. A large bag of cippolinis I just picked up at Costco was soon swimming in a fragrant pool of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey, augmented with chopped garlic and some perky peperoncino. Soon enough, the onions shrink down and the loose dressing boils down to fit a little more tightly around each orb, coating the onions with a thick, luscious glaze spiked with complex notes of acidic vinegar and vegetal sweetness. The aromas are absolutely intoxicating as this dish perfumes your kitchen with its heady scent.
I love to serve these onions hot from the oven with roasted meat or strewn alongside some hearty spaghetti Bolognese. The leftovers, cold from the fridge, are excellent in sandwiches of cold meat and cheese, or eaten on a plate with some dense country bread, dill pickles and an assortment of pates.
The first task is to peel the cippolinis. You can try your hand at doing this with the raw bulbs or give them a quick dip in a pot of boiling water to loosen the skins. Top and tail the onions and place them in a roasting pan that holds them snugly. Drizzle in a glug or two of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 or 3 glugs of balsamic vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of runny honey. Chop as much garlic as you like. I used about 6 large cloves for about 4 cups of onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste as well as a couple of large pinches of peperoncino. Toss everything together well and roast uncovered for about 45 minutes, turning every 12 minutes or so for even browning. If the mixture starts to look dry, add a couple of spoonfuls of water to the pan to prevent scorching. Final product: meltingly tender, golden knobs of sweet/sour/hot/salty onions, glazed and glistening in a thick, hot syrup. Serve hot, warm, cold or anything in between. These are fantastic any way you offer them. They keep very well in the fridge for at least a week.
Roasting is like magic. In goes something ordinary and out comes something extraordinary. Try your hand at more kitchen alchemy: