Bucatini alle Cipolle (Pasta with Onions)

Every time I browse the many cookbooks by Biba Caggiano I own, a recipe catches my eye that I haven’t tried before. In this case it was bucatini alle cipolle, a very simple pasta dish that makes the onions shine by cooking them slowly over low heat. A bit of pancetta is added for additional flavor. The onions are cooked until they are so soft and sweet that they become a sauce. This turned out to be a wonderful pasta dish that I will definitely make again, even though it takes a bit longer to cook the onions. I made a few adaptions, the most important being to cook the onions in the fat rendered from the pancetta to add another layer of flavor. I urge you to try this pasta dish, as you will be amazed how much flavor can be in something that is so simple. Here’s what I did…


For 2 servings

300 grams (.66 lb) onions, thinly sliced

150 grams (.33 lb) bucatini (or spaghetti)

50 grams (1.8 oz) pancetta, diced

1 Tbsp olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano


Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta.

Cook over medium heat until the pancetta is golden but not completely crispy, about 3 minutes.

Take out the pancetta with a strainer and reserve.

Add the onions to the fat left behind by the pancetta.

Add about 60 ml (1/4 cup) of water.

Cover and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes…

…stirring regularly and checking whether any water needs to be added.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Time it such that you add salt and the pasta to the boiling water when the onions have about 5 minutes to go.

After 40 minutes, uncover the onions and raise the heat. Cook, stirring, until the onions start to caramelize.

Then, add the pancetta…

…and about 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water.

Add the parsley as well. Cook until the sauce has a nice consistency, adding more of the pasta cooking water if needed.

Drain the pasta when it is al dente according to package instructions, and add it to the onions.

Toss the bucatini with the sauce until they are covered with the sauce.

Serve at once on preheated plates, sprinkled with freshly grated parmigiano.


The people of Rome have a colorful way of naming their dishes and describing how delicious they are. Saltimbocca refers to veal scaloppine that are so tasty that they “jump into your mouth”, and these lamb chops Scottadito are do delicious that you burn your fingers (scotta = burn, dito = fingers) while eating them.


29 thoughts on “Bucatini alle Cipolle (Pasta with Onions)

  1. Ja t’is lekker en eenvoudig. Weet ik omdat ik heb het gemaakt vorige week na het lezen in CampariandSofa – maar zonder de spek

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my first cooking jobs was working for Biba. She has a restaurant in Sacramento California. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had. Hard but I learned more there than anywhere. She really paid attention to me since I was the only woman in the kitchen at the time. We made this dish for a special occasionally. I really is good if you get the onions done the right way which I am sure you did Stephan! Great post as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks great in its simplicity!
    I wonder if the onions could be pressure-cooked, which would decrease cooking time
    and caramelize simultaneously. There was a recipy for pressure-cooked onion soup somewhere in the Modernist Cuisine at home, so this should work too.
    I’ll definately try this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I have tried some of the caramelized pressure cooker recipes from MC@H and that could surely work for this onion sauce as well to save some time and add flavor. I’ll report back on the blog 🙂


    1. This is also the technique used for cooking onions for quiche. With a drop lid (of parchment paper) you can cook them while keeping them whole, which for pasta sauce is not needed.


  4. We enjoyed this for dinner last night Stefan! What a wonderful pasta recipe with so few ingredients. We absolutely loved it. Interesting recipe I would have never thought to combine onions with pancetta and allow that to be the the sauce, let alone cook the onions in this method. Thank you of sharing, I’ll keep this one close at hand to make often.

    Liked by 1 person

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