Cooking meals from different regions in Italy is always an exciting adventure for me. In my travels, I’ve made tortellini in Bologna, bread in Altamura, and caponata in Taormina (to name just a few). I learn about the region, a little history about the specific ingredients, and then I figure out how I can adapt it in my American kitchen. While it’s not the same as standing in a kitchen in Italy, it is still satisfying for me to recreate memorable dishes in whatever way I can.
Today’s post of crispy potatoes with onions and parmesan had my mouth watering at just the title. One of the ingredients from the original Italian version (Patate Raganate) is the Tropea onion, similar to a shallot or red onion. And you may not realize that potatoes are a true anchor of the southern Italian regional cuisine.
So how did this recipe come about you might ask? A friend (also of Italian descent) called and asked if I knew what the name of the Italian onion was that looked like a shallot. She apparently had planted some in her garden. We identified it as a Tropea onion (considered Italy’s red queen). A little more about the onion from greatitalianchefs.com:
“Known for their amazing sweetness and aroma, the origins of the Tropea onion are largely unknown… There’s a consensus among food historians that the onions probably arrived on the Italian peninsula via the Phoenicians and Greeks, who sailed and traded across much of the Mediterranean sea some 3,000 years ago. By the medieval period, Tropea had well and truly claimed the bright red allium as its own… Though the onions grow all over the region, the sandy soil and more moderate climate near the coast produces the sweetest onions of the bunch. A good Tropea onion is far, far sweeter than your average red onion, but contrary to popular opinion, this isn’t because they have a higher sugar content. In actual fact, they have a much lower pyruvic acid content, which makes them much less harsh and pungent and lets the natural sugars shine through. According to the locals, the sign of a good Cipolla Rossa di Tropea is that you can eat it like an apple!
We often think of Tropea onions all being the same, but they actually come in three distinct types. First, there’s the cipolla fresca – harvested in April – with a long stem and reddish-purple bulb. In June, the cipolla da serbo is harvested – this is the bright red, torpedo-shaped onion that we usually think of as a Tropea onion. And finally, the sweet white cipollotto arrives in October, resembling a spring onion in both appearance and flavour.”
Now that we identified my friend’s onion, I had to find a recipe to use it. I headed for my cookbook Food of the Italian South and found the perfect recipe to use as a base.
Mix together bread crumbs, olive oil, and parmesan cheese for the topping. Set aside.
Cut veggies and toss together.
Season with salt and pepper and I added a few dashes of garlic blend.
Crisped right out of the oven.
Dished up for dinner. Yum!
This dish is an excellent addition to any meat, fish, or chicken entree, or keep it as a vegetarian meal. The leftovers from this dish also were good for breakfast with eggs.