Pasta with Tropea Onions and Lardo alla Toranese

Pasta with Tropea Onions and Lardo alla Toranese Recipe from Calabria

Pasta alla Toranese is a tasty Calabrian dish of pasta with Tropea onions and lardo (not lard). This recipe comes from the town of Torano Castello in Cosenza Province, Calabria. It is a super simple dish with only 3 main ingredients; Italian lardo, Tropea onions and pecorino cheese. So full of flavour and easy to make!

elicoidali pasta with Tropea onions and lardo

Like many simple Italian pasta recipes pasta alla Toranese uses ingredients that are traditional and typical of the regional cuisine! Of course, you can substitute other foods if the original isn’t available. Instead of Tropea onions, you can use other sweet red onions. You can swap out the lardo with guanciale or fatty bacon and use Parmigiano instead of Pecorino. But, although still delicious, the flavours won’t be exactly the same!

pasta alla Toranese with Tropea onions and lardo

What are Tropea onions?

‘Cipolla di Tropea’ or the Tropea onion is Italy’s most famous and appreciated type of onion. The main growing area for these onions is south of the town Tropea, around Ricardi and Capo Vaticano, in Calabria . However, these onions are grown all over the region. Although, the ones planted closest to the sea are the sweetest because of the sandy soil and the mild climate.

ingredients for pasta with Tropea onions and lardo

Apparently, Tropea onions were introduced to Calabria by the Greeks. They, in turn, had discovered them thanks to the Assyrians and Babylonians. However, it was the Arabs who perfected cultivation in Tropea and contributed to the spread of this onion throughout the region. By Medieval times, Tropea (the town) had become famous for its onions.

sliced Tropea onions and pieces of lardo in white bowls.

Types of Tropea onions.

Tropea onions come in 3 types. The cipolla fresca, harvested in April 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 this type growing in my garden and, in fact, used them in this pasta alla Toranese recipe.

There is also the sweet white cipollotto which is ready to harvest in October. This onion resembles a spring onion in both appearance and flavour.

sliced Tropea onions and pieces of lardo in skillet

A good Tropea onion is a lot sweeter than most other red onions. But, this isn’t because they have a higher sugar content. Actually, what they have is a much lower pyruvic acid content. This is what makes them less pungent and allows the natural sugars to come through.

A good Tropea onion can be eaten like an apple!

According to Calabrians, a good ‘cipolla rossa di Tropea’  can be eaten like an apple! Italian cooks love them for their sweet taste and the fact that they don’t make you ‘cry’ when you peel and chop them!

onions and lardo cooking in skillet

What is Italian lardo?

In the past,  Italian families who owned pigs would slaughter them in the late summer/early autumn so they could preserve every part of the animal to see the family through the colder winter months. In fact, there is a well-known Italian expression ‘del maiale non si butta via niente’ – one throws nothing away from the pig!

cooked elicoidali pasta added to skillet with onions and lardo

Throwing nothing away also meant using the pig fat or lard. Actually, there are two types of Italian lard; lardo and strutto. The latter is rendered pig fat which was, and still is, used for cooking (instead of olive oil) and making pastry (instead of butter). Lardo, on the other hand, is pig back fat which has been preserved in various ways and is eaten on bread or added to recipes such as this one for pasta alla Toranese.

grated pecorino added to pasta, onions and lardo in skillet

In the old days, farming families made their own lardo by preserving the back fat in salt. Obviously this tradition is less common now. However, there are types of lardo which continue to be produced and are much loved here and even considered a delicacy.

The two most famous ones are Lardo di Colonnata and Lardo di Arnad. You can read more about how these types of lardo are made in another recipe for pasta with lardo, Ziti Lardiati. I used Lardo di Colonnata from Tuscany for this pasta with Tropea onions and lardo.

elicoidali pasta Rummo

However, lardo is produced in Calabria. One of the best there is made from the back fat of black Calabrian pigs also called the Apulo-Calabrese pig breed. These pigs are bred and raised in the wild or semi-wild and their meat is really good quality! I haven’t tried this lardo but would love to!

What type of Pecorino?

There are a number of different types of Pecorino produced in Italy, particularly in the Central and Southern regions where sheep farming is more common than in the North. The word ‘pecorino’ comes from the Italian ‘pecora’ which means sheep! Of course, the most famous is Pecorino Romano, which actually comes from Sardinia.  Pecorino Romano is great with this pasta with Tropea onions and lardo.

pasta alla Toranese with Tropea onions and lardo

Of course, they also produce pecorino in Calabria. The most well-known pecorino from Calabria is Pecorino Crotonese DOP. This cheese comes from the province of Crotone. Here in Italy, you can buy it fresh, semi-hard and seasoned. It can be aged for a maximum of 2 years.

Making pasta alla Toranese.

As I mentioned above, this is a very simple and fast recipe. All you have to do is cook the onions and lardo together while boiling the water for the pasta. Then add the cooked pasta to the onions and lardo with some of the pasta cooking water. Finally mix in the cheese till everything becomes a bit creamy. Serve immediately. I’m sure you’ll love this pasta with Tropea onions and lardo.

Pasta with Tropea Onions and Lardo alla Toranese

The pasta.

Most recipes I found for pasta alla Toranese call for rigatoni or ‘maccheroni’. The latter is often used in Italy as a generic term to refer to pasta, particularly short pasta tubes. I used elicoidali made by Rummo. You can also use rigatoni, short ziti, penne or casarecce.

Pasta with Tropea Onions and Lardo alla Toranese

Whichever pasta you chose, I’m sure you’ll love this simple tasty pasta with Tropea onions and lardo. If you give it a try do let me know how it turns out, either by commenting below or on the Pasta Project Facebook page. And if you feel it’s worth sharing with friends please do. 

All your feedback and support is much appreciated!

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If you want to save this recipe for later, you can print it, bookmark this page or save it to Pinterest.

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Pasta alla Toranese

Other traditional recipes from Calabria

  1. Elicoidali with Tropea onions (no meat)
  2. Fileja Tropeana
  3. Pasta with ricotta balls in tomato sauce
  4. Fileja pasta alla Silana
5 from 30 votes
pasta with Tropea onions and lardo
Pasta with Tropea onions and Lardo alla Toranese
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins

This delicious 3 ingredient traditional recipe from Calabria is fast and easy to make! An authentic Italian recipe that is perfect for weeknights!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Calabria, Italian, Mediterranean, Southern Italian
Keyword: authentic Italian pasta recipe, Calabrian, elicoidali, Italian food, lardo, traditional recipe, Tropea onions
Servings: 4
Calories: 744 kcal
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 320-400 g elicoidali pasta (12-14oz) or rigatoni, penne, etc
  • 150 g Italian lardo (5-6oz) or guanciale, fatty bacon.
  • 2 Tropea onions or other sweet red onions
  • 50 g Pecorino cheese (2oz)
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper. to taste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
  • peperoncino flakes optional and to taste
Prepare ingredients
  1. Peel the onions and cut into fine slices. Cut the lardo into small pieces.

  2. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.

Make your pasta alla Toranese
  1. Fry the chopped lard and the onions together in a little olive oil (You don’t need much as the lardo will render fat too) until the onions are translucent and the lardo has started to melt.

  2. Cook the pasta al dente according to instructions on the packet. When ready, save a cup of the cooking water and drain. Add the pasta to the sauce with a little of the cooking water.

  3. Mix well then add some grated pecorino cheese. Mix again and serve immediately with a sprinkling of ground black pepper, more pecorino and some peperoncino for a little spice if desired.

Recipe Notes

I used elicoidali made by Rummo. You can also use rigatoni, short ziti, penne or casarecce etc.

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  • Avatar
    Back to the Book Nutrition
    July 30, 2020 9:43 pm

    Your dishes never disappoint. This dish is amazing. My family absolutely adored it, no leftovers at all.

  • Avatar
    Kari Alana
    July 28, 2020 11:07 pm

    This is such a fun pasta dish and I am particularly stoked about the use of lardo. Talk about flavour! Will be recreating.

  • Avatar
    July 28, 2020 11:03 pm

    It’s really awesome to create an awesome dish like this with minimal ingredients. Thank you for sharing.

  • Avatar
    July 28, 2020 10:40 pm

    What a great looking dinner option! My family will devour a plate of pasta in no time flat.

  • Avatar
    July 28, 2020 8:47 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever had Tropea onions before but I’m going to have to track them down and make this dish because it sounds delicious!

    Katie xoxo

  • Avatar
    Jen | Jen’s Food Lab
    July 28, 2020 6:31 pm

    Looks so authentic! I love cool pasta recipes, and definitely will save this one for later.

  • Avatar
    July 27, 2020 1:17 pm

    I don’t think I have ever tasted Tropea onions or even cooked with them before and they look very tasty! I always like to try new pasta ideas and this is next on the list! I am looking forward to making this recipe, thank you for sharing

  • Avatar
    July 27, 2020 11:36 am

    Wow never saw those Tropea onions, I bet they must have given a wonderful flavor to the pasta. Love the traditional authentic pasta recipes.

  • Avatar
    Jagruti’s Cooking Odyssey
    July 27, 2020 10:13 am

    I’m always on the lookout for pasta recipes and this looks delicious – and with only 3 ingredients!

  • Avatar
    July 26, 2020 11:01 pm

    I love onions in pasta! This recipe is so simple and so delicious, restaurant quality!

  • Avatar
    July 26, 2020 9:26 pm

    I love Pecorino Romano! After trying that, I haven’t bought Parmesan a single time. And good to know about pig fat in Italy! I haven’t been there since finding out I’m allergic to pork. Is it very common?

  • Avatar
    July 26, 2020 9:20 pm

    Haha. My husband eats any onion like an apple. I find it odd. 😀 And this post makes me so excited. I’ve just been looking at vacation homes in Italy. I can’t wait to introduce my son to Italy! (we only live 3 hours away)

  • Avatar
    GUNJAN C Dudani
    July 26, 2020 7:29 pm

    pasta anytime and in any form is my family’s favorite. We totally gorge on it and your recipe looks delectable.

  • Avatar
    Sarah James
    July 26, 2020 1:47 pm

    What an interesting read, so informative. I really like the sound of those tropea onions and a great idea to grow your own. Thanks for sharing your recipe, looking forward to making it.

  • Avatar
    July 26, 2020 11:54 am

    This Pasta with Tropea Onions and Lardo alla Toranese Recipe was so delicious. I’m always on the search for simple pasta recipes and this 3 ingredients dish is exactly what I love.
    I’ve used spring red onion and lardons, I’m yet to source Tropea onions, I need to see where and if I find those here. It was absolutely delicious and will definitely make again!

  • Avatar
    Sondra Barker
    July 26, 2020 4:10 am

    I always love a good pasta recipe and this is another to add to my list! So yummy and flavorful

  • Avatar
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt
    July 25, 2020 6:58 pm

    What a great pasta dish. I love all the flavors and my family all asked for seconds. Will make it Jagain!

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2020 10:35 am

    Always love to try new recipes with pasta. This looks fantastic. Pinned!

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2020 5:41 am

    What a lovely, quick recipe for those times when you are hungry but want to cook something yourself rather than go out. The lardo, onions and cheese must give just the right amount of flavor.

  • Avatar
    Paula Montenegro
    July 24, 2020 10:43 pm

    I always learn of new ingredients when reading your posts. I can’t wait to try to find lardo, it sounds heavenly!

  • Avatar
    July 24, 2020 9:13 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever tasted tropea onions, but I’m going to change that and make this as soon as possible.

  • Avatar
    Amy Liu Dong
    July 24, 2020 5:50 pm

    Wow! Another wonderful pasta recipe and when it comes to pasta this is definitely number 1 in my list of dishes. This looks incredibly delicious and tasty. Thanks for sharing such a masterpiece.

  • Avatar
    July 24, 2020 4:58 pm

    This pasta looks so delicious. My husband can’t wait for me to make it. I love all your pasta recipes!

  • Avatar
    Amy Liu Dong
    July 24, 2020 4:32 pm

    My family love pasta so much and this one looks really delicious. I am going to make this for our dinner. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Liz Cleland
    July 24, 2020 2:28 am

    Where do you pick up your lardo-alla-toranese? I have never seen it but maybe my local Wegmans would sell it.

    • Jacqui
      July 24, 2020 9:39 am

      Hi Liz, thanks for your comment. ‘alla Toranese’ is the name of the recipe. The most well-known Italian lardo are 1. lardo di Colonnata (which is what I used) 2. lardo d’Arnad and 3. lardo from Calabria. You can definitely buy online the most easily found is lardo di Colonnata from Tuscany. Do let me know if you get to make this dish and if you like it!

  • Avatar
    Jere Cassidy
    July 24, 2020 1:16 am

    Thanks for another great recipe that is simple and easy to make. I love pastas that aren’t covered tons of sauces. I have seen lardo at a local market so I can’t wait to give this dish a try.

  • Avatar
    Lesli Schwartz
    July 23, 2020 4:21 pm

    Those tropea onions looks so interesting! Never heard of them before. This recipe is to die for!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    July 23, 2020 8:14 am

    That lardo bacon looks insane! I bet it makes a big difference to the dish, but I will still definitely try this with ingredients available to me!

  • Avatar
    July 22, 2020 10:27 pm

    This is the best Dinner option. My family is a pasta fan. This is so quick and easy to make. Cheese and Bacon is my favorite too.

  • Avatar
    Taleen | Just As Tasty
    July 22, 2020 8:44 pm

    Yum! I’m always looking for new pasta recipes to try out, and I’m so glad I found this one! I don’t think I’ve ever tried Tropea onions so that will be new to me.

  • Avatar
    Kathryn Donangelo
    July 22, 2020 6:45 pm

    Yummm pasta and onions go so perfectly together! This dish was a hit and will make again! Thanks!

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