Pasta with Caramelised Onions, Feta and Walnuts Recipe + Know Your (Leftover) Onions

A little taste of Turkey lurks in this deceptively simple, but deeply-flavoured vegetarian pasta dish. Make more onions than you need and add the remainder into dishes for days to come. 

A little taste of Turkey lurks in this deceptively simple, but deeply-flavoured vegetarian pasta dish. Make more onions than you need and add the remainder into dishes for days to come. The aroma of slowly cooked sliced onions draws my family to the kitchen faster than a cake pulled from the oven. And I don’t think this is a reflection on my baking. Or at least I hope not. When a pan of onions is patiently evolving from crunchy-raw to slippery-sweet I will often hear a shout from up the stairs: “What’s that you’re making?” Or  a head will lean over my shoulder urgently saying, “When is it ready?”

Although consistently overshadowed by “showier” vegetables, such as aubergines and cauliflower (the latter having a dramatic recent turnabout in the the food fashion stakes), onions are the backbone of many a dish. Nearly any savoury recipe will be enhanced by this most humble of vegetables.

Assertive when raw, deeply sweet when cooked, onions are a vegetable most definitely more than the sum of its parts. A little taste of Turkey lurks in this deceptively simple, but deeply-flavoured vegetarian pasta dish. Make more onions than you need and add the remainder into dishes for days to come. Many dishes are elevated with a flurry of finely chopped raw onion – salsas and chilis being the most obvious beneficiaries. These are best chopped and used on the spot to best show off their natural bite. But if I am thinking straight, whilst cooking up onions I will cook way more than I need for the one recipe. This one simple task can simplify – and amplify – many dishes throughout the week. And you can even bag some up and sling them in the freezer for future meals.

What I do is take a netted bag of onions, peel and thinly slice the contents (okay, I sometimes get Andrew to do this bit) then scrape them into several skillets lightly shimmering with equal parts of light olive oil and best butter (about 1 teaspoon of each per onion). To the piles of onions I will add a good pinch of salt (this helps to stop any burning) and a little of sugar (to hasten the caramelisation). Usually I will keep them “nude” but sometimes I will lean out of the kitchen door and pluck some thyme and bay leaves – both of which grow year round for me in Scotland, and perhaps also where you are. I will turn the onions over to coat, then leave them over a low-medium heat, nudging them around with a wooden spoon  over the course of 15 minutes. Then I will add a splash of water, cover and lower the heat just a tad and dare leave them a further 15 minutes. Then nudge again, repeating once more for a total of 45 minutes on the hob. After this miracle bath of fat and steam, you should have a hot, golden, jammy mess. You can cook it for less time and still get a wonderful and versatile result, but we like it jammy.

What to do with your hot golden mess? After doling out what is necessary for the dish at hand, I portion the onions out equally into bags, weigh and label them, and pop some in the fridge and some in the freezer. One time I forgot to label the bags and stupidly thought sometime later that they were bags of applesauce. You can imagine how well that went!

A little taste of Turkey lurks in this deceptively simple, but deeply-flavoured vegetarian pasta dish. Make more onions than you need and add the remainder into dishes for days to come. How to transform caramelised onions into food on the table.

*Soup, stew and broth are the most obvious calls. Gently heat a portion until warm – or plonk right in – and then carry on with your recipe, knowing that you are way ahead of the game in terms of deep, moreish flavour.

*Breakfast. Yup, breakfast. Mix into scrambled eggs; warm and add to a mess of wilting greens and pile on toast with seared tofu or poached egg; breakfast tostados; dot into omelettes and frittatas; stir into homemade hash browns using cooked, chopped potatoes. You get the idea.

*Pizza! A no-brainer way to make your pizzas more awesome. Once you’ve rolled your dough and added a sauce, dollop on little mounds of onion and dot with goat’s cheese and just a few other yummy things – delish!

*Any wholegrain, bean or pasta grain salad will benefit from a savoury-sweet strewing of melted, jammy onions. For green salads, instead of adding them in as they are blitz a little with best vinegar and a little oil and a little honey for any AMAZING salad dressing!

*I can’t think of anything nicer to add to a homemade bread dough than caramelised onions. Or cut strips of rolled puff pastry, add a stripe of melted onions, twist and bake. Don’t forget the poppy seeds.

*Blend caramelised onions into beans or soft cheese, add whatever spices and herbs you like and use as a dip or spread – sandwiches, wraps, cut veggies, breadsticks, etc…

*Mixed with black olive tapenade or pesto, cooked melty onions make great bruschetta toppings.

*And of course pasta. Caramelised onions are welcome in not only pasta sauce, but in something as simple as today’s recipe. In fact, when the cupboard is bare, save for some onions and macaroni, you could do worse than boiling the pasta up in salty water and stirring though the melted onions and a little extra virgin olive oil.

I’m sure there are plenty more things to make with a big jammy batch of sweet caramelised onions. What are your ideas?

A little taste of Turkey lurks in this deceptively simple, but deeply-flavoured vegetarian pasta dish. Make more onions than you need and add the remainder into dishes for days to come.

Pasta with Caramelised Onions, Feta and Walnuts

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print

A little taste of Turkey lurks in this deceptively simple, but deeply-flavoured vegetarian pasta dish. Make more onions than you need and add the remainder into dishes for days to come. 

*Recipe inspired by Diana Henry, Silvana Rowe and others.*

2 tbsp olive oil (or one of oil and one of butter)

3 medium brown onions, halved and thinly sliced

Good pinch each of salt and sugar

1 bay leaf

5 cm cinnamon stick (usually cinnamon stick broken in half)

100g or so de-ribbed and chopped kale (any kind; or use chard or collard greens)

70ml plain live yogurt

50g best feta cheese, crumbled

120g pasta of choice (gluten-free, wheat-based, bean-based, or whatever you like)

40g toasted walnuts, chopped

Lemon juice and Aleppo pepper/pul biber or sumac or black pepper, to serve

Dill sprig or fennel fronds, to serve

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet (or two) and add the onions with a pinch of salt and sugar, bay leaf and cinnamon (split these if using two pans), Stir to coat and saute over a low-medium flame for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of water, cover and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Open the lid, stir again and add the kale on top. Pop on the lid and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes.

2. While the onions are doing their thing, mix together the yogurt and feta.

3. When you are about ready to serve, cook the pasta to your liking (I usually shave off a minute or two for an al dente texture). Drain, saving some of the pasta water. Add the pasta back to the pan, along with about 3-4 tablespoons of the cooking water, the yogurt and feta mix, and the onions. Lightly fork everything through.

4. To serve, divide the pasta between two pasta bowls, spritz with lemon juice and top with the walnuts and pepper of choice. I added a few fennel sprigs from the garden but you may like dill. Eat immediately.

Serving suggestion: This is great with roasted cherry tomatoes and peppers, as well as cauliflower. You can sub in cauliflower for the pasta as well.

Portions of Fruit/Vegetable per serving: 2

Soft food diet: Choose a pasta that’s easiest for you to chew, blend the yogurt mix with the nuts in a blender until smooth, mix with the pasta and fork through the soft onions.

IF YOU LIKE THIS RECIPE, WHY NOT PIN IT? AND YOU CAN FOLLOW ME ON PINTEREST TOO 🙂A little taste of Turkey lurks in this deceptively simple, but deeply-flavoured vegetarian pasta dish. Make more onions than you need and add the remainder into dishes for days to come.