Onions Stuffed with Ground Meat and Pine Nuts


THIS RECIPE comes from Lesbos, where it is also called sogania, from the Turkish word sogan (onion). Many cooks halve the onions crosswise and, after blanching them for a few minutes, take out most of the inner part, creating little cups that they fill with the stuffing. After numerous tries, I decided to separate the onion layers and roll them around the stuffing. The result is a nicer-looking dish, which also tastes better because the stuffing takes on more flavor and stays moist.

Serve with mashed potatoes, Roasted Potatoes with Garlic, Lemon and Oregano or Baked Okra in Tomato Sauce.


  • 6 medium onions (3½–4 pounds total), unpeeled
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 ounces lean ground pork or beef
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • cup coarse bulgur (see Sources)
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup grated hard myzithra, kefalotyri or pecorino Romano cheese
  • cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups grated ripe tomatoes (see Note) or canned diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • About ½ cup beef stock, Chicken Stock or water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a lengthwise slit on each onion all the way to the center and add to the pot. Add 2 tablespoons salt and simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes, or until soft. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a colander and rinse under cold running water.

With a very sharp knife, trim off the top and bottom of each onion and peel off and discard the skin and the second layer if it is tough. Gently push out the center of each onion, leaving about four outer layers, and chop the centers. Carefully separate the remaining onion layers and place them on paper towels to drain. (The onion layers can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated with the chopped-onion centers in a separate container for up to 2 days.)

In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté the chopped-onion centers over medium heat for 3 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Add the pork or beef and sauté, stirring, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Stir in the dill, bulgur, wine, tomato-paste mixture and pepper or pepper flakes and remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese, pine nuts and salt to taste and let the filling cool slightly. Taste and adjust the seasonings, then stir in the eggs.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place about 2 tablespoons filling on each onion layer and roll up to enclose the filling. (The inner layers will need less stuffing, the outer more.) Arrange the stuffed onions close together and seam side down in a 13-x-9-inch baking dish.

Make the Sauce

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the tomatoes with the bay leaf and oregano for 5 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from the heat, add the wine and pour the sauce over the stuffed onions. Add enough stock to come two-thirds of the way up the onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the onions in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake, basting the onions frequently with the sauce, for 45 minutes, or until the onions are soft and the sauce is thickened.

Let stand, covered, at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or until cool, to let the flavors develop.

Baste the onions again with the sauce and reheat in a preheated 375°F oven for about 15 minutes, basting twice. Remove the bay leaf, sprinkle the onions with the parsley and serve.