Braised Sweet-Sour Onions

(Adapted from Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cook Book)
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 3 pounds small white onions preferably the flat variety called cipolline
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan or skillet broad enough for the onions to fit in a single layer, blanch the onions in boiling water for about 20 seconds; drain and cool slightly. Pull off the papery outer skin; trim dangling roots or tips but leave the root ends intact (otherwise, the onions will come apart when cooked).
  2. Return onions to the saucepan; add water half way up the sides of the onions. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer the onions for about 20 minutes, stirring at least once, until tender and about half of the water has evaporated.
  3. Add the butter, vinegar, sugar, salt and several grindings of black pepper; continue to simmer very slowly, partially covered, for 1 to 2 hours. Stir often and add a tablespoon or two of water as necessary.
  4. When the onions are a burnished golden brown, consider them done. (Can be made ahead and reheated slowly.)