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Pasta spirals with onion compote

Time 40 minutes
Yields Makes 4 first-course or side-dish or 2 main-course servings
Pasta spirals with onion compote
1

Heat the oil and 3 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, salt and pepper to taste, the thyme and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, 10 minutes. Cover and continue cooking until the onions are very tender, about 15 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook the onions uncovered, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

2

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the pasta, stir and cook uncovered over high heat until tender but firm to the bite, about 7 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking liquid.

3

Add the pasta and remaining tablespoon of butter to the onions. Toss gently over low heat until the butter melts. Add 2 tablespoons of cheese and a dash of cayenne pepper and toss again. If the sauce is too thick, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of pasta cooking liquid. Add salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve with extra cheese.

Common brown-skinned onions are fine for compote--when cooked, they’re actually sweeter than “sweet” varieties such as Vidalia or Maui onions. For ease in cooking and the best flavor, don’t skimp on the butter. If you do want a leaner dish, use a total of 2 or 3 tablespoons butter or oil and add vegetable broth or water by tablespoons as necessary to prevent burning. You can cook the onions 2 or 3 days ahead and keep them in a covered container in the refrigerator. To add color, use tomato or spinach pasta or stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley at the last minute. Serve the pasta as a first course, a partner for steak or roast chicken or an entree with broccoli, green beans or zucchini.

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