pasta with caramelized onions, peas and parsley


Quick confession: this recipe (and probably some of the next few, and definitely the one previous) were made when I was still a resident of New Jersey. After we made the decision to move and we got deep into packing mode, I doubled up on planning and recipes and photos because everyone knows the hardest room to pack is the kitchen. And technically we should have started there, but I clung to my pots and pans, deeming each weird tool necessary and crucial until the last week, when we finally gave in to paper plates and takeout. Moving is weird like that. And if cooking is your calming method and you don't get to do it, particularly during a very stressful time of your life (yep, right between death and divorce), you can imagine just what I was like the closer we got to moving day. Something like this.

So the cure for stress in most forms is comfort food, so I hear. I don't really think vegetarians tend to partake in this kind of stuff, but I could be wrong. Unless you eat dairy and could go with the mac and cheese standby, which is just the ticket every time. But in general, I think meat and potatoes people tend to win out when it comes to food wrapping you up in a giant, warm hug. Me, I like my food to give me a nice, affirming pat on the back and nothing more. Kind of like, "Good job, this is definitely going to sustain you later for your run/read/nap/whatever." I like my food to have a clear purpose.

But sometimes, yes sometimes, you can have it both ways. Yes, you can have a healthy dinner and a bowl of comfort-y love all at once. Enter: caramelized onions. So sure, you have to be an onion person to feel comforted by them. And you have to have a lot of patience to get them to that gooey-sweet point. But if neither of those things deter you, then say hello to your go-to dinner. Good for a weekend or when you have a little more time on a weeknight, I dare you to feel any sort of stress while this is sitting in front of you.

For this recipe, you will need:

5-7 medium onions, any color, thinly sliced**
1/2 pound whole wheat linguine (or another hearty shape)
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh (or frozen) green peas
2 tablespoons olive oil (or vegan butter)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

**Does this seem like a lot? Okay, maybe. But if you're going to go through the time and trouble of caramelizing onions, you might as well make some extra to add to tomorrow night's meal or the next days crusty bread or on top of some homemade hummus. You will thank me later.

Start by heating a large cast iron skillet over low-medium heat. Think low and slow when it comes to caramelizing. If you get the onions hot too fast, they'll only burn, and nobody wants that. Once the pan is hot, add your olive oil or vegan butter and spread evenly over the surface. Next, drop your onions into the pan and stir them gently to get them evenly coated. Now? Time to wait. Check on your onions every five to ten minutes, but you don't want to constantly stir. You'll see a noticeable breakdown happening, but try to be patient and not move them around too much.

When they're about halfway through (or after about 15 minutes), you can get your pasta water boiling. It's tough to time it exactly right, but you want to have your pasta cooked just about when the onions are ready. When your onions are dark and smelling a-m-a-z-i-n-g, or at about this point:

You can now add your vinegar and a few generous pinches of salt. This will help to deglaze all that sugar on the pan. Scrape your onions together, rounding up on all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When the pasta is ready, toss together with a generous heaping of caramelized onions, fresh parsley and gently cooked peas. Top with another pinch of salt (or cheese) and fresh pepper. It's a bowl of sweet, fresh and savory, all at once.

Want something else to keep you warm?