Caramelized Onion, Fennel and Walnut Pasta with Super Easy Yogurt Sauce
by Tori Pintar
Adapted from food52.com
Yogurt and pasta, or seaweed pasta, may or may not seem like an obvious pairing to you, but the really good thick yogurts aren’t that far removed from cream, so trust me this combination actually makes a lot of sense. It is really important you use a thick full fat greek yogurt or feel free to strain regular full fat yogurt in your fridge for a few hours. This pasta is relatively simple and quick but for the time intensive step of caramelizing the onions. If you scour the internet you’ll find numerous discussions about the length of time it truly takes to caramelize onions, magical steps to halve the time, and even some famous chefs claiming it can be done in 15-20 minutes. I am not famous but my experiences have taught me that true caramelized onions take nothing short of 40 minutes and that’s probably on the conservative side in order to achieve that truly sweet, complex flavor that’s worth every slow minute in the pan. Don’t skip the onions, they really make this recipe by bringing everything together and complementing the tang of your yogurt. This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy pasta and I hope it becomes one of yours too.
Cook time: About an hour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced, preferably with a mandolin (Don’t be afraid to use really large onions)
1 medium fennel bulb
1 box Blue Evolution Rotini
1 cup full fat greek yogurt, at room temperature (you can let this sit out while your onions cook)
1 cup reserved pasta water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Zest of one medium lemon
Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
Heaping 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat your oven to 400˙F.
Place a large skillet (I used a 12” cast iron skillet, but non-stick works too) over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once warm (we’re not trying to brown the edges so it’s important your pan and oil are never too hot), add your onion, a big pinch of salt and stir to coat. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, and adjusting heat as necessary to slowly cook your onions. You don’t want them to brown or get caught on the bottom early on in cooking process. You’re nursing them into golden, caramel goodness over a long exposure to heat. This typically takes anywhere between 40-60 minutes depending on your pan, heat, and quantity of onion. Remove from heat when done. Don’t rush this step or you’ll lose that deep complex sweetness that only comes with patience. The good news you can drink a glass of wine, make a salad and carry on with the rest of this recipe.
While your onions are cooking (but you’re still stirring and keeping a watchful eye), core and chop your fennel bulb. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and top with your chopped fennel. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and then using your hands or a spatula (I find my hands easier) toss the fennel until evenly coated. Once your onions have been cooking for about 20-25 minutes, put your fennel in the oven and roast until it has started to brown around the edges and it’s fairly tender. This takes about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven.
When your onions are getting close to completion (they’ll have shifted in color to a deep caramel shade, and reduced in size dramatically) bring a pot of water to boil and cook your Rotini with Superfood Seaweed as directed on the box. Drain your pasta, being sure to reserve one cup of pasta water.
In a small bowl whisk together your greek yogurt and 1/4 cup of your pasta water. Season with a lot of black pepper and salt to taste.
Return empty pasta pot to stove and heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant about one minute. Add lemon zest and heat an additional 30 seconds to one minute, careful not to scorch your lemon zest. Turn heat to low and add pasta, yogurt sauce and a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg. Toss to combine, adding additional reserved pasta water as needed to achieve desired sauce consistency. Add 3/4 cup of the grated parmesan and stir again. Season with fresh black pepper and salt. Be careful in this process to not turn the heat up too much or you’ll risk the yogurt separating and lose the smoother sauce-like consistency. If this happens, it still tastes great so don’t fret.
Portion your pasta into four bowls and top with your hard earned onions (maybe give yourself a few extra), roasted fennel, remaining cheese and the toasted walnuts.
Eat immediately! And enjoy every morsel!