I was reminded of this recipe a couple of days ago. I had originally published it in 2010. It was a commission to re-create a dish based on remembered tastes. As so many of these jobs have come to me it was from an older person who wanted a taste of his childhood.
Having been reminded of the dish I made it again and it struck me how simple, cheap and delicious it is. A recipe for lean economic times that can suit from Meatless Monday to Pasta Sunday.
Sometimes I say don’t deviate from the recipe but with this one go ahead. If you want more anchovy, go ahead. If you want to add a vegetable, that works as well. However by itself it is extraordinary.
When I began this research I got stumped really stumped. Sicilian Grandmothers can do that to me.
Spaghetti with onions, his Sicilian Great-Grandmother made it and he loved it, but other than spaghetti and onions he had no idea what went into it. No tomatoes for sure, and it was his favorite. She died when he was 11 and no one else in the family knew exactly how to make it. For 30 years this man has been craving this dish and my first 8 attempts were failures. Abject failures.
In order to finally ‘get it’ I had to go back to Sicilian basics…and some French ones. Eventually it came out that when Sicilian Grandpa had died Grandma married a Frenchman, and they kept several cows which probably explains the use of butter vs oil.
Meaty taste, no visible meat….lots of onions….
By George I finally got it.
1 lb. onions thinly sliced
1/4 lb butter
1/2 pound romano cheese finely grated
Red Pepper flakes
Buttered bread crumbs (toasted)
1 cup finely chopped parsley
Take the butter and melt it and brown and caramelize the onions on a low flame. It will take close to an hour. Add salt and pepper and mush in the anchovies.
Bring salted water to a boil, cook spaghetti to al dente and reserve some of the pasta water. Toss your spaghetti with your onions adding the red pepper and parsley as you go. Now the rest of the butter and the cheese, tossing as you add. Taste…if you need more salt or pepper do it now. Use a little pasta water if it is dry.
Serve in warm bowls with bread crumbs on top.
I just have a feeling that one day the French man began to make an onion soup and the Sicilian woman decided to turn it into a pasta. However it came about…it is fusion at it’s finest.