Cipolline alla Veneta

Venetian-Style Stewed Button Onions


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

These little onions are served as an antipasto or as an accompanying vegetable with a simple meat dish such as a lightly fried calf’s liver. They are traditionally made in great quantities and then preserved in sterilised jars and used as a chutney or accompaniment to cheese or cured meats. The flavours of the ingredients in this recipe blend together really well. Button onions are found at most greengrocers and market stalls in Italy, but pickling onions about the size of a walnut make a good substitute.


  • 2 kg/ lb button/pearl onions, washed and unpeeled
  • 250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup olive oil
  • 200 g/7 oz/1 cup sugar
  • 500 g/ lb canned tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 50 g/2 oz dark/bittersweet cooking chocolate (minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids), grated coarsely
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • 350 ml/12 fl oz/ cups dry white wine
  • sea salt and ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil, add the onions and boil them hard for 5-10 minutes, or until tender.

  2. Drain, cool and peel carefully, leaving them whole. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
  3. Pour the oil into a roasting pan large enough to take all the onions, and set over medium heat. Heat gently for 5 minutes, then gently stir in the sugar and allow it to brown, stirring constantly over a low heat.
  4. Dry the onions in a clean dish towel and add them to the oil and sugar. Mix carefully together to coat the onions completely, then add the tomatoes, chocolate, bay leaves, cloves and wine.

  5. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes, then transfer to the oven and bake for 5 minutes more.
  6. Take the roasting pan out of the oven, stir and season. The onions can be served hot or cold, or preserved in clean, sterilised jars for later use (see Cook’s Tip).