This caramelized onion fettuccine hits a striking balance between sweet, savory and smoky thanks to hickory-smoked cherry tomatoes, deeply caramelized onions and garlic, and piquant pickled raisins.
My folks have a backyard smoker at their home in Montana and when I visited them this summer, Dad and I went pretty crazy with it. I made smoked tofu, smoked pinto beans (for refried beans), and smoked dried pasta (for pasta salad). He also made some mushrooms in which I did not partake =P. We enjoyed everything immensely, and he jokingly said at the time that he knew what to get me as a gift this year… so a couple of weeks ago when a GIGANTIC box showed up at my door, I had a pretty good hunch.
Getting a vegetarian a smoker as a gift sounds like a kind of cruel joke, because ha! people totally use it to cook meat. But the truth is that in terms of plant-based cooking, your options are limitless. As someone pointed out to me, there’s not really anything that gets worse when you cook it in the smoker.
So last weekend, J and I had some friends over and did a full feast of smoked foods. Potatoes; soy curls; zucchini; eggplant; you name it. I did something I don’t normally do, and bought some pretty vastly out-of-season produce items that I normally reserve for the summer months: fresh berries and cherry tomatoes.
When I was tasting the fettuccine, something about it really threw me off. And then I realized: it tastes like bacon. I thought I might just be going crazy, so I had J confirm, and he agreed! It really does. And it actually makes complete sense with the hickory smoke used on the tomatoes. Some of the smoky tomato essence gets cooked into the pan sauce that coats the pasta. Then you have sweet and savory caramelized onions, a hit of extra virgin olive oil, and the tangy pickled raisins to round everything out. And of course, wine. This pasta has all of the good stuff! Whoever said vegan food is boring/vegan food can’t be gourmet?
I know that wood smokers aren’t totally commonplace, so while I did include instructions for smoking the tomatoes, a perfectly good alternative is roasting them in the oven at a high heat and (optionally) adding a dash of liquid smoke to the sauce. I also mixed in some roasted Brussels sprouts with the pasta for extra veggies, which is why you see them in the picture. They’re totally not necessary, though. Either way, this caramelized onion fettuccine is a memorable and delicious pasta dish!
- 1 and ½ c. cherry tomatoes
- 1 tb. olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tb. white wine (any wine will do, but I recommend Sauvignon blanc)
- 1 tb. water
- ¼ tsp. mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp. fennel seeds
- ¼ tsp. dried thyme
- 2 tb. water
- 2 tb. white vinegar
- juice of ½ of a lemon (or additional 1 tb. white vinegar)
- ⅓ c. raisins
- ⅓ c. golden raisins (or more regular raisins)
- ⅓ tsp. salt or to taste
- caramelized onions (above)
- cherry tomatoes (above)
- ¼ c. white wine
- (optional, if tomatoes aren't smoked) ⅛ to ¼ tsp. liquid smoke
- 8 oz. dry fettuccine
- pickled raisins (above)
- salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
- extra virgin olive oil
- (optional) fresh parsley or basil for serving (I used curly parsley)
- Use a very sharp knife to poke a hole in every cherry tomato (this is so that they don't explode).
- Place the tomatoes on a sheet of aluminum foil. Roll the edges up around them to form a mostly-closed vessel with a small opening at the top. The exact shape is not important, as long as the tomatoes can't fall out.
- SMOKER OPTION: Place the foil vessel directly onto the rack of a heated wood smoker. Smoke for 20-40 minutes, depending on preference for amount of smokiness.
- OVEN OPTION: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the foil vessel on a baking sheet and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft, juicy and shrunken slightly. Try to check them every 5 minutes starting from the 30 minute mark.
- Warm the olive oil in a skillet, add the sliced onions, and stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions have softened.
- Add the garlic and stir. Reduce the heat to low and spread out the onions on the pan so that as many of them as possible are touching it directly. Cook, stirring infrequently, until the onions are brown and significantly reduced in size, 30-40 minutes.
- Add the white wine and water to deglaze the pan, and continue cooking on low heat until the liquid has evaporated.
- Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and dried thyme. Stir frequently, cooking until the spices start to darken slightly, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the water, vinegar, lemon juice, raisins, and salt, and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the raisins have taken on a tangy and piquant flavor, 10-15 minutes.
- Cook the fettuccine to al dente in lightly salted water according to package instructions. Drain the pasta (but do not rinse), reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
- Over medium-high heat, add the cherry tomatoes and white wine (and liquid smoke if using) to the caramelized onion mixture, and cook until the wine has mostly cooked off. Add the cooked fettuccine to the pan, along with ⅓ cup of the reserved pasta water. Use tongs to toss the fettuccine with the caramelized onions and tomatoes.
- Gradually add more pasta water as needed to create a thin sauce to coat the pasta, tossing to coat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Fold in a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve with fresh basil or parsley, if desired.
FIRST: Prep the cherry tomatoes and get them going in the oven or smoker (hands-off).
SECOND: Prep and start the caramelized onions (hands-off once the garlic is stirred in).
THIRD: Prep and start the pickled raisins (hands-off once the mixture is brought to a simmer). All three components are now cooking hands-off and you can check on all of them periodically.
FOURTH: Once the tomatoes and raisins are done, you can set them aside. When the caramelized onions are almost done, you can start the water boiling for the pasta.
FIFTH: As the caramelized onions finish cooking, transition directly into the pan sauce while the pasta cooks, and follow the instructions to finish the dish from there.
Another good option is to make the tomatoes and the pickled raisins in advance. The caramelized onions can also be done ahead of time.
Inspiration: pickled golden raisins by Suzanne Goin; caramelized onion and garlic pasta by Taste of Home.