Cipolle Ripiene

Stuffed Onions

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Preparation info

  • 4

    • Difficulty


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Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen

Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen

By Alastair Little

Published 1996

  • About

This is an adaptation of a recipe by Anna del Conte. The recipe involves quite a bit of work, and may seem daunting, but if you boil the onions in advance, even the day before, to actually prep them only takes about 15 minutes. You can then either cook them in advance and serve at room temperature (surprisingly good), or hold and cook when you need them, providing it is on the same day. Believe me, this dish is worth it. The guests at La Cacciata watch me demonstrating and look very dubious, but when they get a chance to try making it themselves, they are half hooked, and eating them with a selection of other stuffed vegetables at lunch completes the addiction.


  • 4 medium white onions, unpeeled
  • 100 g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 150 ml milk
  • good olive oil
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 150 g canned tuna, drained and flaked
  • ¼ red chilli pepper
  • ½ tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • 9 canned anchovy fillets, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper if needed


Put a pan of water on to boil with the onions in it. When the water comes to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, and leave the onions to cool in the water.

Make the breadcrumbs, and mix most of them with the milk, reserving 4 tsp for the top of the stuffed onions.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

When the onions are cool, peel off the outer layer of skin. Trim the root end very carefully, just enough to make it presentable, and to form a small flat base. Trim the top of the onion and discard. Now the fun bit: cut the top quarters off the onions and set aside, then carefully make four onion bowls by removing the centres. The bowl walls need to be two layers thick. Arrange the onion cups in a lightly oiled roasting dish with a few tbsp of water in the base.

Chop the onion centres and caps finely. In a frying pan heat a tbsp or so of olive oil and sauté the onion pieces until golden brown over a very high heat. Put in a food processor along with the milk-soaked breadcrumbs, the parsley, tuna, chilli, capers, anchovies, garlic and oregano. Process until a coarse paste, then taste and adjust seasoning, but as it contains anchovies and chilli, it should need neither salt nor pepper.

Spoon this mixture into the onions, heaping it up. Sprinkle the tops with the reserved dry crumbs and moisten with a little oil. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, being careful that the roasting dish doesn’t dry out; if it does, add 2 tbsp water. Be careful too that the top of the stuffing doesn’t burn; if this seems to be happening, cover loosely with a bit of oiled foil.

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