Fusilli bucati with onions, saffron and pecorino
I’ve been reading a fair number of Italian cookbooks of late and found myself inspired to cook a pasta recipe where the principal ingredient in the sauce is onions. Cooking onions slowly leaves them incredibly rich and sweet and transforms their texture into something silky and indulgent.
Here I’ve cooked them in olive oil with fragrant saffron, garlic, rosemary and thyme and plenty of Pecorino cheese. Adding some of the pasta water along the way creates a wonderful creamy sauce to envelop fusilli bucati; these pretty little spring-like coils are one of my favourite pastas and they work perfectly with the strands of slow cooked onion. If you can’t find fusilli bucati, of course you can use normal fusilli or spaghetti.
The hardest part of this recipe is slicing up all the onions. But once that’s done, it’s pretty straightforward. Just make sure you keep the heat nice and low when cooking the onions, you don’t wat to colour them, just soften and reduce all the liquid from them.
500g finely sliced onions (around 5 or 6 onions)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
1 pinch saffron
1 clove garlic, grated or crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
200g dried fusilli bucati
25g butter (optional)
75g Pecorino, finely grated
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan. Add the sliced onions, rosemary, thyme and a pinch of salt and cook on a gentle heat, stirring from time to time for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small ramekin, pour 1 tbsp boiling water onto the saffron and leave to one side to infuse.
After the onions have been cooking for 20 minutes, add the garlic and a few grinds of your pepper mill. Continue to cook gently for 10 more minutes before adding the saffron and its soaking water. Cook gently for a further 15 minutes until the onions have cooked down and become an almost jam or chutney like consistency. You may need to cook them for up to 1 hour depending on the onions but normally, around 45 minutes should do it.
A few minutes before the onions are ready, put your pasta on to cook in some well salted water. Just before draining the pasta, reserve 150ml of the cooking liquid. Once drained, leave your pasta in a colander whilst you finish the sauce.
Turn up the heat on the onions, and add the pasta water you just reserved. Allow it to bubble with the onions for a minute or so and then add the drained pasta followed by the knob of butter (if you’ve chosen to go down the indulgent route) and the grated cheese. Stir well to melt the cheese and butter and stir more freshly ground black pepper through.
Once melted, remove from the heat and serve up. Sprinkle chopped chives on top and lots more freshly ground black pepper.