Pearl onions generally get their day in the sun on Thanksgiving, usually in a bath of cream. During the rest of the year, you may find them winking from stews or bobbing in a pot pie. Italians enjoy pearl onions or more precisely, cipolline, all year long. Italian cipolline are small and flat. Cipolline are available in the U.S. but pearl onions are easier to find; hence, I have used them in this recipe that I adapted from Marcella Hazan's original Cipollne in Tegame con la Pancetta. Pancettta rounds out the caramelized onions' sweetness while a dash of red wine vinegar at the end of cooking enlivens the dish. You'll find yourself plucking onions out of the pan and popping them into your mouth. Sooooo good.
1 pound pearl onions, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 ounces pancetta, diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh onions: Place the onions in a large saucepan with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, add the onions, and cook for 5 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Drain. As soon as the onions are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut a cross into the root end.
Frozen onions: Thaw and pat dry.
Over medium-high heat, in a skillet or saute pan that can accommodate the onions without crowding them, cook the olive oil, butter, pancetta, and rosemary until the pancetta is lightly browned but not crisp. Add the onions and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup water, and cook, stirring, until the liquid has just evaporated (the onions should be slick, not dry). Serve immediately.