Italian Onion Soup Recipe

Since I got back from France, I have been dreaming and obsessing over French Onion soup. I ate it quite a bit in France and put it on my list to re-create. When I sat down to make it, I decided I didn’t want to make it exactly as the French do, and adjusted it to some of the local ingredients here.

I love Borettane onions, a small, flat Italian pearl onion which are usually served grilled or sott’olio as an appetizer. I thought it would be good to have them as center-stage in my soup. Of course, with Italian onions, I needed to pair an Italian cheese with it.

Borettane onions ready for Italian onion soup

Italian Onion Soup Recipe

Note: I definitely recommend using homemade stock in this recipe. Check out Elise’s How to Make Chicken Stock or Kalyn’s How to Make Beef Stock for inspiration. It will make all the difference!

500g Borettane onions – if you can’t find these, use white or yellow onions
3 cups broth (turkey, chicken, beef, or vegetable) – I used the very last of my turkey stock from Thanksgiving and added a 1/2 cube beef stock.
3T. butter
1 splash rum, vodka or wine

For the “croutons”:
1 baguette or crostini
Grana Padano (or Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino)
Butter slivers

  1. Cut the borettane onions in half, remove the outer skin and core them to remove the hard middle part. Heat the butter in a deep, heavy-bottomed (NOT non-stick) saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter starts to melt, place all the onions in the pan. Don’t stir! Now walk away.
    Borettane onions starting to caramelize
  2. After 15-20 minutes of cooking over medium heat, check if the onions have softened. Continue cooking until they are soft enough to break apart when prodded (this can be 30 minutes). Once they’ve reached this stage, gently break up the onions and mix so that each piece gets coated with the butter and juices in the pan. If it’s a bit black on the bottom, don’t worry – we’ll get to that in a minute.
  3. Some people advocate adding sugar to help the caramelization but these didn’t need any. If you like, add a tablespoon of sugar and continue to cook. Once the onions have broken down quite a bit, are dark and very little liquid remains in the pan (from 45-60 minutes of cooking time), splash a bit of rum (I used Havana dark since I had it on hand) or vodka or wine into the pan. Stir quickly so that the pan is de-glazed and you pick up all the lovely dark juices from the bottom of the pan.
    Borettane onions caramelizing
  4. Add the broth to the onion mixture. Bring to a slow boil. Taste now and add salt/pepper right before serving.
  5. While the soup is heating, turn on the broiler. Prepare small slices of baguette or pre-cut crostini rounds on a baking sheet. Add a sliver of butter and then fresh-sliced Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino. Broil until the cheese has melted.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and add the croutons to each bowl, submerging them or ladling extra liquid on top to soften them. If you’d prefer, you can ladle the soup into individual, oven-safe bowls and put the bread into the soup and broil them together. I decided to add the bread to the soup after toasting.
    Italian Onion Soup before adding the Cheesy Crouton

So it’s not quite French onion soup, but it’s a delicious compromise. I definitely think it competed with some of the versions I had while in Paris, and I think due to the fact I used homemade stock. How would you make this version your own? What would you add/take away?

Italian Onion Soup ready to eat

Other onion soup recipes to try – French Onion Soup by Simply Recipes, Onion Soup without Tears by 101 Cookbooks, and French Onion Soup by Nook and Pantry.

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  1. says

    Love the stuff but something about it makes me dramatically sick. Think Pronto Soccorso sick, so I won’t do this. It did make me wonder about using thinly sliced leeks instead. Leek soups are usually not caramelized, but chicken and leeks is such a wonderful combo.

  2. says

    Due to my allergy to long-aged cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, I would use some very aromatic Fontna Valdostana: I think that its slight bitter taste would complement beautifully the onions’ sweetness. Other cheeses that I would try are toma di Gressoney or, if you like strong sensations, medoum-aged pannerone. YUM!

  3. says

    I would never, ever bite right into an onion. However, your pictures make me want to try just that… I couldn’t even finish reading the post! oh my GOD!!! love it… back to reading. Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to make it for my dad who loves onion soup.

  4. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    Let me know how they come out! :)

    It was delicious, I had leftovers last night. I can’t imagine being allergic to onions! :(

  5. says

    Not normally a fan of onion soup, but maybe that’s because I haven’t eaten the right version. And since P *loves* all things onion, I think we just might be able to give this one a go. Thanks for the recipe!

  6. says

    What about dipping the bread in the soup? I would make the soup as directed except I would use some small panetone with melted cheese inside, dip in the soup. Yum.

  7. Anna L'americana says

    I make something almost exactly like it using beef broth, but I use Marsala wine. The marsala adds just the perfect sweetness, complements the onion and rounds out the flavors – but you have to be careful when using it to deglaze, as it can burn instantly because of the “sugar” content. I mix it with a little of the broth first before deglazing, then add the rest of the broth to the pot. Works like a charm. The other trick I use, which is a real contadina thing, is to add a good sized chunk of old Parmigiano rind (I save these forever for just these occasions in a plastic container in the fridge, they keep just fine) directly to the soup once the broth is added and let the whole thing reduce for at least 20 minutes or more uncovered over medium low heat. The broth thickens just a bit, the flavors intensify, and the rind doesn’t ever actually melt, it just leaches its flavors and adds a perfect richness to the soup. I also add a bay leaf when the rind goes in. Try the rind thing – its a great little secret. You can use it in any sauce, stew or soup that will be cooking for a while – but adjust your salt accordingly as adding the Parmigiano rind will throw that off a bit. You can fish it out – and the bay leaf – easily before serving if using a serving bowl at the table. I leave it all in when storing leftovers (which are amazing) so it is all still in there when reheating….I just made this last night. It is freezing where I am (9 degrees today!) and this was a perfect cold night meal. I forwent a secondo piatto and just added some cooked barley to the soup to make it more filling. A sort of beef barley onion soup – YUM!

  8. says

    Your recipe looks so much easier than the French one. I just made some fabulous broth with chicken feet( they give off a lot of gelatin) no MSG needed. I love the fact that with a well stocked pantry most Italian dishes can be made spur of the moment. Thanks!

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