This cheesy caramelized onion and bacon pasta bake will entrance your taste buds with an enticing combination of rich, sweet, and smoky flavors in each forkful. The sweetness of caramelized onions really counters the deep smoky flavor of the crisp bacon nicely, while it all dances on the nutty backdrop of melted provolone cheese!
Ingredients you will need
- Penne noodles - Other similarly sized noodles can be substituted.
- Onions - You will need 3 large onions to yield 2 cups of caramelized onions. Don't get overly concerned if your end up with a slightly different amount though.
- Sour cream
- Provolone cheese - I think provolone is best for this dish, but you can substitute Monterey Jack, or Mozzarella if needed.
- Seasonings - Garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
How to make it
Begin by caramelizing your onions over medium heat until they are tender and sticky. Don't rush this step. Plan on this taking thirty minutes or more.
While onions are caramelizing, prepare your bacon by crisping it in a skillet. I like to chop the bacon prior to cooking, which seems to help it crisp more evenly. Once crisp, remove the bacon from the grease and set it aside.
Cook the penne pasta according to the instructions on the package, and prepare the sauce by mixing together the mayo, sour cream, black pepper, and garlic powder.
Once all of the ingredients have been prepped, the onions, bacon, noodles, and cheese can all be combined with the sauce. This can be poured into a lasagna pan and topped with one cup of shredded provolone. Finally, bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Tip: Turn on the broiler for the last few minutes to brown the cheese nicely.
Tips for making the best caramelized onions
The key to this meal is making fantastically sweet and sticky caramelized onions. The best caramelized onions aren't simply sauteed, they are slowly cooked to extract every last bit of sugar from the onion. Finally, to ensure no morsel of flavor is left behind, the pan gets deglazed with a liquid such as water, wine, brandy, or balsamic vinegar.
Tip: Each deglazing liquid I mentioned works well, but balsamic vinegar and brandy are my favorites.
When deglazing the onion skillet, be sure to vigorously scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any cooked-on bits of fond. As the liquid evaporates all of the flavor will soak into the onions.
Whenever I caramelize onions I always use my straight walled saute pan. The straight sides allow for more surface area on the bottom of the pan, while also doing a better job ensuring the onions do not fall out of the pan during stirring.
For an even more in-depth discussion on concocting phenomenal caramelized onions please take a look at the detailed caramelized onion tutorial I have written.
To properly caramelize onions, expect to cook them 30-45 minutes. You cannot rush this or they won't truly caramelize. It is through this slow cooking process that the sugar is gently coaxed out.
Carmelized onions are slowly cooked for a considerably longer prior of time to extract the sugar from the onion, making them wonderfully sweet and sticky. Sauteed onions are quickly cooked in a skillet only until tender.
You can caramelize any onion. However, I recommend sweet onions due to their higher sugar content. Traditional yellow onions are my second choice.
More ways to enjoy Caramelized Onions
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Cheesy Caramelized Onion and Bacon Pasta Bake
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Slice 3 large onions into strips and caramelize with butter in a skillet set over medium heat for 30-45 minutes, or until tender and sticky. Once finished, deglaze the pan with ¼ up of liquid* while scraping the bottom to losen any cooked on fond. Cook until the liquid evaporates.
- Cut bacon into 1" chunks and cook until crisp, set aside.
- Boil pasta in salted water, one minute shy of al dente. (~10 minutes, but refer to package instruction)
- In large bowl combine mayo, sour cream, garlic powder and pepper in a bowl and stir to combine.
- Add bacon, 1 cup of Provolone cheese and caramelized onions and stir further.
- Finally mix in noodles.
- Pour pasta and sauce into a lasagna pan, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of cheese and bake uncovered in oven for 20 minutes.
- Turn broiler on for final 2-5 minutes and broil till cheese is browning slightly, monitoring closely.
- Let pasta rest for 5 minutes and serve.
This recipe was originally published on FoxValleyFoodie.com on October 1st, 2016.