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Cipollini in Agrodolce

Agrodolce means “sweet and sour,” a flavoring particularly popular in southern Italy and usually achieved by mixing vinegar and sugar. For this recipe, an inexpensive young balsamic vinegar should be used rather than a more expensive aged vinegar. Cipollini are small, flat Italian onions. They are available in some supermarkets and farmers’ markets. Pearl onions or small boiling onions may be substituted. Serve these piquant onions alongside a platter of cheeses and sliced cured meats, such as prosciutto and coppa.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. cipollini onions, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter 
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar  
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar 
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar 
  • 3 Tbs. firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 

Directions:

Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add the onions and cook for 30 seconds. Drain, place under cold running water to stop the cooking and drain again. Using a small, sharp knife, trim off the root end of each onion and slip off the skin. Do not cut too deeply into the onions or they will fall apart.

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the white wine and balsamic vinegars, granulated and brown sugars, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugars. Add the onions and cook until softened when pierced with the tip of a knife, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 1 hour.

Transfer the onions and liquid to a nonreactive container, making sure that the onions are submerged in the liquid. Cover and let stand for 1 week at room temperature before using, to allow the onions to mellow and absorb the flavors. The onions will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).