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Cipolline in agro dolce

Sweet and Sour Cipollini

First cultivated in Italy, cipollini are one of autumn’s sweet delights. In Italy, they are most often served in a sweet and sour preparation (agro dolce). These squat, silver dollar–sized onions, at their peak from fall through midwinter, have an unusually high sugar content, which helps them caramelize quickly to a gorgeous brown. You can substitute more readily available shallots or pearled onions.

Cipolline in agro dolce


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 12 large cipollini (or shallot or pearled onions), peeled (about 1¼ pounds)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • 2 tablespoons water (or more if needed)

  • 1 teaspoon ground juniper berry


  1. To peel the cipolline, put them in a bowl, pour boiling water over them, and let them sit for a minute or two. Drain, carefully cut off the root and stem ends to avoid wasting too much onion, and with a paring knife, grab the skin and pull it away from the onion.

  2. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. As soon as the butter stops foaming, add the cipolline, season with salt and pepper, and brown all over. Lower the heat as necessary so the butter doesn’t burn.

  3. Add the remaining ingredients and continue cooking until the cipolline are tender and the liquids have reduced to a glaze, about 20 minutes, adding more water as necessary. Pay close attention so you don’t over-reduce the sauce.  If using more onions, adjust the liquids.

  4. Serve the cipolline warm or at room temperature

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