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Italian braised onion sauce (il friggione) with garganelli pasta
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5 from 19 votes

Italian Braised Onion Sauce (Il Friggione) with pasta

This rich and tasty vegetarian Italian braised onion sauce has only 2 main ingredients, white onions and tomatoes. It may take a while to make but is definitely worth it! Great with pasta! Perfect as a side dish with meat, on bread and with polenta too!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Resting time minimum2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Central Italy, Emilia-Romagna, Italian
Keyword: braised onions, Italian food, Italian recipe, onions, pasta, tomatoes
Servings: 4
Calories: 319kcal
Author: Jacqueline De Bono


  • 2.5 kg white onions (5.5 lbs)
  • 200 g peeled tomatoes (7oz) fresh or canned
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or lard for traditional non-vegetarian version)
  • salt for onions, pasta and to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar for onions
  • ground black pepper to taste


  • 400 g garganelli pasta (14oz) or other pasta tube


  • Peel and thinly slice the onions. ( you can use a mandoline slicer for this). Put the onions in a glass or ceramic bowl and add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar. Mix together well and leave to macerate for 2-4 hours. (Mix occasionally)
  • Heat the olive oil or lard in a deep heavy pan ( I used my Dutch oven) Add the onions with the liquid they produced and cook until the liquid evaporates and the onions soften. 
  • Add the tomatoes. Mix everything together well and cook over a low heat for 1.5-2 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. If necessary add a little water.
  • Once the sauce is ready. Put a pot of water onto boil for the pasta. Add salt when the water starts to boil and bring to the boil again. Cook pasta according to the instructions on the packet. When the pasta is ready save a cup of the cooking water and drain.
  • Return the pasta to the pot and add some of the braised onion sauce. (You will probably have more than you need) Mix well over a low heat for a minute or two and serve with grated parmigiano and chopped parsley if required.


I used garganelli pasta for this recipe. Garganelli is a traditional egg pasta tube from Bologna, but you can use other pasta tubes or tagliatelle. 
Traditionally the onions should cook for 2 hours alone and then 1.5 hours with the tomatoes. I reduced cooking times by cooking the onions alone only until they started to soften as per the Italian recipe I followed.