Traditional Italian Friggione (Stewed Onions and Tomatoes)
Traditional Italian Friggione (which is Stewed Onions and Tomatoes) or what the Italians call ‘Il Friggione Bolognese’ is made with just 2 simple ingredients. Stewed for hours to bring out the sweetness of onions and tomato. Perfect as a side dish or an appetizer on crusty bread.
What is Friggione?
Pronounced free-jo-nay, is a traditional local dish from Bologna, Italy. It is 90% onions and 10% peeled tomatoes that are stewed in a little fat (traditionally lard, but olive oil or butter can be used) until they are softened and naturally sweet. Sounds luscious, doesn’t it?
Wow, do the Italians know how to take 2 simple ingredients and turn into something so delicious or what? (Yeah, they do!).
Bologna is a beautiful city and to experience that city the right way, sitting outside at a restaurant in the Piazza Maggiore and sampling this local dish for the first time is definitely the right way! This is one of the great, simple culinary pleasures to come out of Italy and definitely not to be missed.
The Italians do call this a Bolognese sauce (not to be confused with my ever popular Bolognese Sauce/Ragu). And fun fact, both this Friggione recipe and the traditional meat Bolognese recipe is housed in the Bologna Chamber of Commerce. So, they’re very much authentic and are true Italian culinary delights.
This is a dish that can be made and served as an all-year round treat. You can serve it warm in the winter and room temperature in the summer.
OK, I know what you might be thinking. Since this is an onion heavy dish that it is going to be overpowering on your taste buds when, in fact, it is strangely quite the opposite! Due to the onions being cooked for so long, they mellow out quite dramatically and become more flavorful and less pungent.
You have to first prepare the onions. Once thinly sliced, they have to macerate (soften) in a little sugar and salt for 2 hours and be prepared as this step comes with a strong caution! They will omit the strongest onion aroma all over your kitchen and beyond. So, if you are sensitive and to some watering eyes, put them in a well ventilated area.
Slicing onions for Friggione
With a sharp knife and good knife skills, you can slice them thinly by hand or use a mandolin, if you have one, which makes it much easier.
Use the best tomatoes for your Friggione
Good canned tomatoes or fresh seasonal Roma tomatoes are the best. If using canned, remember to buy a good brand like Mutti or San Marzano for the best flavor with no added ingredients.
When it’s tomato season, this would be a delicious and easy way to use up your bounty. However, there is a little more work involved to prepare the tomatoes, they must first be peeled. Want to know how to successfully peel your tomatoes? Read on!
How to Peel Tomatoes
There are 2 ways to peel a tomato. You can score the skin with a knife and peel. Or the easier method is to use boiling water. Score the bottom of the tomato with an X using a sharp knife.
Bring a pan of water to a boil and turn down the heat. Add the tomatoes for 20 seconds then remove them and immerse immediately into cold water. Once cool enough to handle, they will easily peel. Easy peasy!
How to make Easy Friggione
Keep in mind that although this is a relatively easy dish to make, it is not a quick one to make. The onions must sit for 4 hours with salt and sugar to soften and bring out their natural juices. Then they need to slowly cook in lard for 2 hours, after which the tomatoes are added and cooked for a further 2 hours.
Onions for Traditional Italian Friggione (Stewed Onions and Tomatoes)
Onions are the main component to this dish, so the correct onion should be used. White is traditional for it’s mild flavor, and definitely do not use yellow or red onions.
Lard is what is traditionally used in Italy. If you do not want to use lard, you can substitute a good olive oil (or oil of your choice) or butter.
How to serve Friggione
On top of crostini/crusty bread (like bruschetta), or served as a sauce with cooked chicken or fish. I also love to serve with chunks of Parmesan cheese (pictured above.
This recipe yields 5 cups/250 grams. 8-10 people for an appetizer.