Roasted cipollini onions are a great accompaniment to any meal – they have a sweet and savory caramel flavor that we combine with thyme for added depth.
If you’re not familiar with them, Cipollini onions (pronounced chip-oh-lee-knee) are a thin-skinned, mild onion about the side of a golf ball. They’re pretty easy to recognize because they have a flattened, almost UFO-ish shape that’s very distinctive. The name literally means “little onion” in Italian. Go figure.
These little guys are my all-time favorite onion to roast because they caramelize beautifully and become incredibly soft and sweet.
Like all little onions, they are kind of annoying to peel but if you boil them for 30 seconds and then run ice-cold water over them, it’s really not too bad. My advice is to make more than you think you’ll need because they will disappear quickly.
Very often, I’ll roast them with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil but if you happen to be cooking duck in some form or another (say, for example Crispy Duck Breasts with Sherry and Figs), then you should absolutely use the rendered duck fat instead.
If you’ve never tried cooking with it, you’ll soon discover that duck fat is pretty much the culinary elixir of the gods. I’m not exaggerating (I’m exaggerating, but just a little). Seriously though, if you want to make the best, most outrageously divine roasted potatoes in the history of mankind, follow this recipe from Nigella Lawson. She uses goose fat, which is not that easy to find in the U.S. but we’ve made it several times with duck fat and it is insane. I’ll blog it sometime but we don’t make it very often. Another thing I love to do is sauté kale or chard in a tiny bit of duck fat with a little garlic and chili flakes.
Okay, back to Cipollinis. I’ve seen many recipes that call for roasting cipollinis with honey or balsamic vinegar, but personally I don’t think they need anything more than a few sprigs of thyme and and a good sprinkle of course salt and pepper.
They would make a fantastic side-dish to roasted chicken or pork. They would be great on a pizza or a tart with mushrooms and gruyere cheese. Now I’m getting excited… I think I might need to make more of them later this week.
- You can keep duck fat in the fridge for about 6 months where it will stay “softly” solidified, and can be scooped out as needed. For long-term storage, freeze it in an airtight container where you can keep it pretty much indefinitely.
- You can substitute shallots if you can’t find Cipollinis.
- When trimming and peeling the onions, don’t cut off too much of the root end or they will fall apart as they cook.
- You can drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on them when they come out of the oven, if you want them a little more “dressed”. I would say 1 1/2 tablespoons would be perfect.
- 2 lbs. Cipollini onions
- 2-3 tablespoons duck fat (or substitute extra-virgin olive oil)
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- Course kosher or sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add onions and cook for 30 seconds. Drain, and run ice cold water over the onions until cool. Cut off just the very tip of the root end and peel skin.
- In a baking dish, arrange the peeled onions in a single layer. Drizzle on duck fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the thyme sprigs and toss until the onions are evenly coated.
- Roast for 30-35 minutes, turning twice, until the onions are soft and caramelized.