Mac ‘n Cheese…Meet Caramelized Onions

Happy Father’s Day

A celebration shout-out to all the dads today.

Hosting dinners at my house is a common event when there is a celebration because of my food allergies to fish and peanuts. I am always looking to expand my repertoire because I rarely cook the same meal twice. I like keeping it simple and I do love to make an impression.  With hosting any type of meal, planning in advance is very important. The focus and main priority should be the guests once they have arrived. Like Martha Stewart has taught us, the guest should think your party was executed effortlessly and you just “whipped this up. Mise en place for your recipes should be completed; dishes and clutter should be removed from eyesight.( Of course, this does not always happen because in real life time runs out because of busy schedules and there is never enough dishes in the kitchen.) And honestly, at the end of the day…sometimes you just want to impress your guests.

Onions waiting to be caramelizedThe following recipe is my new “having people over on a weekday night and we are celebrating” meal. This indulgent dish is rich and delicious. I have found it is a great recipe to make in advance the night before and pop in the oven when ready to serve.  I also have made this in my father’s home and split the recipe into two casseroles, one for eating and one for freezing. He suggests when you reheat the casserole from the freezer to add a touch more liquid before baking.

Oven-Baked Orecchiette with Caramelized Onions and Smoked Cheese

You can make this vegetarian by removing the pancetta. This recipe can be replaced with any type of melting cheese like a fontina, sharp cheddar or mozzarella. Serve with a light salad and a glass of wine.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup diced pancetta

2 large sweet onions, sliced thinly

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound orecchiette (little ears) pasta

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup grated Parmesan

8 ounces grated smoked cheese

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sauté pancetta in a small skillet over medium heat for three minutes or until crisped and golden.  Drain on paper towels.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and salt them immediately.  Sauté for three minutes or until they are coated in oil.  Turn heat to medium-low and continue to cook onions for 30 to 40 minutes until they become a thick golden mass.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil.  Add orecchiette and boil until al dente 8-12 min.  Drain immediately and transfer to large bowl.  Stir in cream, butter, 1/2 cup Parmesan, onions and smoked cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and dot with butter.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until pasta is hot and top is slightly browned.

Serves 4.

Published from The Globe and Mail September 2003 by Lucy Waverman and “A Matter of Taste” by Lucy Waverman and James Chatto (An excellent cookbook about seasonal menu recipes and  wine pairing.)

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3 thoughts on “Mac ‘n Cheese…Meet Caramelized Onions

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