Layered Onion Casserole from Cannara 1 / Parmigiana di Cipolla di Cannara

Cannara, a small townnear the ceramic center of Deruta, is known as the onion capital of Italy, andmany traditional dishes from antipasto to main courses feature the humble onionas the central ingredient. So reveredare the onions of Cannara that every September La Festa della Cipolla (The Onion Festival) is held, and visitorscan get their fill of all sorts of delicious onion dishes. My favorite is this exquisite fried onion andragu casserole laced with a velvety cream sauce. The dish should be prepared in stages to makethe final assembly easy. I make thecream sauce and the ragu several days ahead and refrigerate them. The onions are cooked just before the finalassembly. The ragu recipe is postedseparately.


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshlyground nutmeg
  • 2 pounds Spanishonions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick rings
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces mozzarellacheese, diced
  • 6 tablespoons gratedParmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Ingredients


  1. Follow the directionsfor making the ragu and set aside if assembling the dish that day or refrigeratethe ragu for up to 5 days for later assembly.
  2. To make the creamsauce: Melt the butter in a 2-quartsaucepan over medium heat. Stir in theflour and cook until the mixture is smooth but not browned. Slowly pour in the milk and continue to cook,stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of aspoon. Remove from the heat and stir inthe salt and nutmeg. Cover the pot andset aside or refrigerate the sauce if you are planning to make the casserole afew days later.
  3. Have ready 2 bakingsheets lined with paper towels.
  4. Place the onion ringsin a large paper bag with the flour.Close the bag and shake it to lightly coat the rings.
  5. Heat 1 cup ofvegetable oil in a heavy-duty pot or sauté pan.When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions in batches and brown on bothsides. As they brown, remove them to thepaper-lined baking sheets. Add more oilas needed to cook all the onions.
  6. Preheat the oven to350°F.
  7. Spread 1/2 cup ofcream sauce in the bottom of a 13 × 8 1/2 × 2-inch casserole or similar dish.
  8. Spread 2 cups of raguover the cream sauce. Spread one-third ofthe onions over the ragu, one-third of the mozzarella over the onions, 1/2 cupof cream sauce over the mozzarella, and 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggianoover the mozzarella. Continue, making 2more layers in the same manner. Pour theremaining cream sauce over the casserole.
  9. Bake, uncovered, for30 to 35 minutes, or until it is bubbly and hot. Serve immediately.
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