Elicoidali pasta with Tropea onions from Calabria!
This simple but flavourful elicoidali pasta with Tropea onions recipe from Calabria in Southern Italy is one that I’m sure anyone who loves the combination of cheese and onions will enjoy! It’s traditionally made with the region’s famous sweet red onions but you can use other red onions too!
Elicoidali con le cipolle di Tropea.
The Italian region of Calabria is famous for its sweet red onions named after the popular beach town of Tropea. The main growing area for these onions is south of Tropea, around Ricardi and Capo Vaticano, although they are grown all over Calabria. However, the ones grown closest to the sea are particularly sweet because of the sandy soil and mild climate.
More about Tropea onions.
The Tropea onion was apparently introduced to Calabria by the Greeks, who had discovered it thanks to the Assyrians and Babylonians. However, it was the Arabs who perfected its cultivation in Tropea and contributed to its spread throughout the region.
These onions come in two shapes, oval and round. They are a D.O.P. onion, which means that they are registered by the European Union under the Protected Designation of Origin legislation. This ensures that only products genuinely originating in a particular region are allowed to be identified as such when sold.
There are 3 types of Tropea onions. The cipolla fresca which is ready for harvesting in April. It has a long stem and reddish-purple bulb. In June, they harvest the ‘cipolla da serbo’. This is the bright red, torpedo-shaped onion that we usually think of as a Tropea onion. I have grown this type in my garden!
There is also the sweet white cipollotto which is ready in October. This onion resembles a large spring onion in both appearance and flavour. This is the onion I used for this elicoidali with Tropea onions recipe.
Italians love Tropea onions!
Tropea onions are particularly loved by Italian cooks for their sweet taste and the fact that they don’t make you ‘cry’ when you peel and chop them! Calabrian cuisine has a lot of different recipes for Tropea onions, including one which involves baking them in salt! In Calabria, they are also used to produce a delicious onion jam. They eat this on crostini as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to roasts.
Recipes with Tropea onions.
There are also quite a lot of recipes for pasta with Tropea onions in Calabria. Some include other vegetables and others are made with fish. This elicoidali with Tropea onions recipe is one of the simplest. But I think it brings out the taste of the onions. It’s really a cheese and onion pasta! However, both the cheese and the onions have very unique flavours.
Most pasta dishes with Tropea onions are made with pasta tubes such as rigatoni or macaroni (Italian write it ‘maccheroni’),although spaghetti is popular too. I used elicoidali which are similar to rigatoni. Like rigatoni, this pasta is a tube shape but the ridges are curved around the tube rather than straight and the pasta is slightly curved and narrower than rigatoni. In Northern Italy, this pasta shape is often called tortiglioni.
Of course, you can make this dish with other types of red onions, but if you can find Tropea onions the result will be much more authentic and most probably sweeter. This is a simple but flavourful recipe. It takes very little time to make and is a great choice for week night meals!
If you do try this pasta with Tropea onions, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
Your feedback means a lot to me!
Other recipes from Calabria.
- Calabrian ricotta balls in tomato sauce
- Pasta with Tropea onions and lardo
- Fileja alla Silana
- Fileja alla Tropeana
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This recipe was originally published in 2018 but has been updated with new photos and text.
Elicoidali with Tropea onions
- 400 g elicoidali pasta ( 14oz) or rigatoni, tortiglioni etc
- 400 g Tropea onions (14oz)
- 1-2 garlic clove peeled
- 200 ml white wine about a glass
- 4-5 tbsp pecorino cheese grated (strict vegetarians should use a vegetarian cheese)
- 1 handful fresh parsley chopped (optional) or basil
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt for pasta and to taste
- black pepper to taste
- Peel and finely slice the onions.
- Put water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt when it boils and bring to the boil again.
- Heat olive oil in a frying pan or skillet and add the garlic clove.
- Add the onion slices once the garlic starts to change colour.
- Let the onions cook for 3-4 minutes then add the wine wine and cover the pan.
- Cook the onions and wine for 10-15 minutes until the onions are soft and well cooked.
- Cook the pasta al dente in the salted boiling water according to the instructions on the packet
- If the liquid has evaporated from the sauce and the onions seem dry, add a tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water.
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Remove the garlic clove and add the grated pecorino.
- Mix well and turn off the heat.
- Save some of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta, add it to the onion sauce and mix everything together. If dry add a little more of the pasta cooking water and mix again.
- Serve with extra grated pecorino and parsley or basil.
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