Our next stop on our tour of Onions Around the World is Italy and an onion cooking base known as Italian Battuto.
Italian Battuto combines onions, carrots, and celery making it similar to the French Mirepoix. This onion cooking base goes a step further for more flavor by also including garlic and parsley. The vegetables are chopped, or some might say they are beaten, given that the English translation of battuto is beaten. They are cooked in fat such as butter or olive oil. Some versions also include a meat that provides the fat for cooking the vegetables such as diced pancetta or bacon.
While onion cooking bases like The Holy Trinity are often associated with famous chefs in the restaurant industry, battuto is more closely associated with family history and home cooking. For example, many people familiar with the base associate it with an Italian grandmother or aunt.
We like to use white onions in our battuto. This variety has a crisp and clean flavor that is also pungent. This allows its flavors to hold up during long cooking times, like those you will see in the Slow Cooker Bolognese we will be sharing. The onion turns pleasantly sweet when cooked, but maintains a delicious onion flavor that complements any dish.
The ratio of vegetables is up to the cook. We prefer a large onion to one cup of carrots and a half cup of celery along with three cloves of garlic. A tablespoon or two of chopped parsley is ideal, depending on your preference. When chopping your vegetables keep the pieces similar in size. This will help them all cook evenly as they sautee in the butter or olive oil.
We’ll be using our battuto in a meat sauce so we opted out of using a meat like pancetta when cooking the base in our upcoming recipe. Feel free to experiment with your version, though. Battuto can be used as the start to a variety of delicious meals including pasta sauces, risotto, soups, and stews.
Images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association.