Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Stuffed Onions at Osteria Battaglino

 Have you ever eaten stuffed onions baked in their skin? Me either. I would never have thought to bake it this way - covered in a salt crust, then emptied out and filled with a mixture of ground beef, chopped onion and oozing raschera, a local cheese from Italy's Piedmont region. I ate this, along with other truly memorable dishes, at a restaurant called Osteria Battaglino, a small family owned place in Le Langhe, an area in Piedmont south of Torino. Le Langhe is noted for its big Barolo wines, wonderful cheeses and renowned truffles, all of which I consumed whenever I could on my trip this fall. 

The rolling hills and vine-covered landscape of Le Langhe makes driving a real stop and go experience. It was hard to resist the temptation to halt and take photos at every bend in the road. On the way to Dogliani, the town where the restaurant is located, this is the kind of scenery I drove by.

Dogliani itself is not on the typical tourist itinerary, but its streets do hold some charm.

I'm drawn to colorfully painted houses.

Back here in New Jersey, salmon or mustard-colored exterior walls would look decidedly out of place, but in Italy, they're ubiquitous and they're beautiful.

I had one purpose in stopping in Dogliani -- and that was to have lunch at Osteria Battaglino, owned by Marco Battaglino and Flavia Bergamo. I had read about the restaurant in National Geographic Traveler, and the writer mentioned that the food was so good, that if this restaurant were in a city like New York, people would be waiting for weeks to get a reservation. She wasn't kidding. Everything was exquisite and the service was friendly and fabulous. 

At one point when I was tasting the wine, Flavia said "If you don't like it, you can complain to the owner of the vineyard," who was sitting at a nearby table. No complaints were necessary.

There were no complaints about any of the food either, including the baked onion in the first photo and the little amuse bouche of roasted yellow peppers and anchovies presented in a tiny jar.

Here's one of the primi piatti I tried: tajarin - a specialty of Le Langhe - a rich dough made with flour and egg yolks and similar to tagliatelle, only thinner. Since it was the season for fresh porcini mushrooms, they were ubiquitous on the menu and plentiful in this plate.

I don't know what I loved more - the tajarin or this delicate and ethereal dish of porcini mushrooms and squash gnocchi that practically melted in your mouth:

I ordered roast veal as a main course. It was so well braised and tender, I didn't even need a knife.

I shouldn't have, but I did. Order dessert, that is. Hey, it was fruit, so calories don't count, right? This perfectly poached pear teamed well with the warm zabaglione puddled beneath it and the drizzle of sauce made from a wine reduction.

Maybe you can't get to Osteria Battaglino in Le Langhe, but you can certainly make the onion dish I ate. Chef Marco generously sent me the recipe, printed below in both English and Italian.

If you still needed some encouragement to travel to Le Langhe, here are a few more photos of the beautiful countryside and the fabulous food I ate there:

gnocchi with raschera cheese in the town of Bra, where the Slow Food movement began:

roasted rabbit with pasta and beans:

nebbiolo grapes - classic grapes for Barolo wines 

The castle in the town of Barolo

One of the many cantine for tasting and buying wines - Terre Del Barolo:

meat-filled plin, another specialty of the region, (similar to ravioli) at Leon D'Oro in Canale:

Risotto with white truffles:

The terra cotta roofs of La Morra:

And the hand colored etching I bought from the artist Pierflavio Gallina, with the beautiful words of Piedmont writer Cesare Pavese written in Italian at the bottom of the artwork.

The words are from "La Luna E I Falo," a book I read decades ago, and they have stayed with me since:

"Un paese vuol dire non essere soli, sapere che nella gente, nelle piante, nella terra c'è qualcosa di tuo e che anche quando non ci sei, resta ad aspettarti."

"A home town means never having to feel alone, knowing that in the people, in the plants, in the earth, there is always something of you, and that even when you're not there, it's there waiting for you."

Stuffed Onions

From Osteria Battaglino

Stuffed onions is a simple dish, although it takes a bit of work.

Use a white or yellow onion and place it in a oven-safe pan. Cover it completely with large grain salt (like Kosher salt, but it's also very good with a pinkish salt). Let it cook at about 400 degrees fahrenheit for about an hour and a half. Break the salt crust and extract the onions, then slide off a quarter of the onion at the top, horizontally. Use a spoon to partially scoop out the interior.

At this point, mince the onion that you have extracted from the interior, a small amount of ground beef (or sausage) that has been sautéed in a pan with garlic, rosemary and thyme. If you like, you can also add a touch of curry powder.

Fill the onion at least half way with this mixture and add some cubes of a good melting cheese. If you can find raschera cheese, that's what was used at the restaurant. If not, something like Muenster cheese would be a good substitute. Put it back in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes at 400 degrees until the cheese is melted and slightly browned on top.

Serve, with some of the salt used in cooking sprinkled around the plate. Marco used a black salt.

In Italiano:

La cipolla ripiena è un piatto semplice anche se
richiede un po di lavoro...

Prendi alcune cipolle bionde e le metti in una
teglia da forno completamente coperte di sale grosso, qualsiasi tipo di sale,
molto buona con il sale rosa, e le fai cuocere a 200 gradi centigradi per un ora
e mezza circa. 

Rompi la crosta di sale e tiri fuori le cipolle, le tagli come
nella foto a tre quarti della loro altezza e le svuoti con un cucchiaino

A questo punto fai un trito con la cipolla che hai
estratto, un pò di carne macinata che hai precedentemente rosolato in padella
con aglio e rosmarino, e del timo di montagna...a piacere può anche andar bene
una punta di curry.

Riempi la cipolla per meno di metà con questo trito
e fino all'orlo con dei cubetti di formaggio dolce e fresco...raschera, bra
tenero o altri simili...a questo punto non ti resta che farle gratinare in forno
a 200 gradi per una decina di minuti e mangiarle...

È importante che nel piatto
assieme alle cipolle ci sia anche un po del sale di cottura.


  1. Lovely food and places! Those stuffed onions look mighty scrumptious.



  2. un altro post molto interessante, prendo nota del ristorante, è da tempo che vorrei visitare quelle zone, un bacione !

  3. Cara.. vengo dal blog di Chiara e sono davvero felice di conoscerti. Leggo con piacere questa recensione meravigliosa e questa ricetta davvero deliziosa. Ti seguirò volentieri e ti faccio i miei complimenti, di cuore! Che questo nuovo anno ti porti tutto ciò che più desideri e sogni! Un abbraccio forte! <3

  4. I am reading this before eating breakfast and now I am craving gnocchi. Those pictures are mouth-watering!

  5. Linda, you shouldn't do this to me this early in the morning. I'm drooling all over my computer keyboard!

    Seriously, though, the food and scenery both look incredible. I've always loved Piedmontese cuisine. Something about it really calls out to me. Funny, given my southern roots, but there you go. One of my regrets about the years in Italy is that I never did go up to visit when I had the chance!

  6. Drooling. I'm controlling myself not to hop in a taxi and head to the airport!

  7. As usual, my mouth started to water before I finished reading the post. Happy New Year Linda. I also love the beautifully colored houses...when we were in Germany and France, we crossed the Rhine several times just to see the brightly painted homes in Colmar...they were just so festive. In our little area of NJ the houses are all in shades of beige.

  8. Ciao vengo anch'io dal blog di Chiara, complimenti per il blog e per questo bel reportage sulle Langhe, le cipolle sono decisamente da provare!!
    Ti auguro un sereno 2013
    Un abbraccio

  9. I'm definitely make the onions and will seek out this restaurant- in the spring I hope to spend a few days in Piemonte. Love all your photos!

  10. Ciao Linda!Piacere di conoscerti...arrivo anch'io dal blog di Chiara! Che bel blog e che belle foto!!!! Complimenti:)
    Ti auguro uno splendido anno nuovo! buona serata!

  11. First - congratulation son being #40 in Blogs Got Talent! This is great fun and quite an honor. I think we need to wear matching charms! And thanks again for introducing me to Chiara, a most gracious and talented woman.

    To move on to this article andphoto essay. It i so much more than a post. It is spectacular. Your photographs have particular sharpness and vibrancy. Nice work!

    I had to chuckle at your comment about how the color of the house was perfect for Italy, but rather less so for your neighborhood. I can relate. Here in Los Angeles we see huge Italinate homes painted those same colors, and it is kind of a pity. They look so out of place.

    And about the. Lucullus would be envious. It is all gorgeous and so tempting. I love the idea of the onions. The dish is completely new to me, and I have to try it. The chef was very generous to have provided you with the recipe.

    This really is a spectacular post, Linda. Thank3 for sharing your trip!

  12. Ciao Linda, vengo dal blog di Chiara La Voglia Matta, e vedere questo tuo splendido reportage delle Langhe in autunno mi ha fatto venire una gran voglia di tornarci!
    Ora vado a curiosare tra le altre pagine del tuo interessantissimo blog.
    Grazie e a presto!

  13. ciao Linda, arrivo direttamente dal blog di Chiara, e vedere queste meraviglie langarole mi emoziona....adoro questi posti....

    complimenti per il blog, ti seguirò sicuramente...

    cari saluti e tantissimi auguri per il nuovo anno, che sia pieno di cose belle.


  14. vengo qui su segnalazione di Chiara, e poi mi sono accorta che ti seguivo già su Pinterest, chissà perchè nel blog no, ma da adesso si!! Buon Anno, un abbraccio SILVIA

  15. WOW! In a heartbeat I could go there. And eat stuffed onions and all these beautiful dishes you tasted. (And drink the wine!)

  16. Such luscious food and wine! Such picturesque houses! I am most enthralled by your words, however, Linda. The quote on that beautiful etching made me weep. As we are beginning our move west next week I feel a little bit displaced right now... Home will feel far away for awhile.

  17. I am sure I have read of this place. Maybe. Definitely dreamed of it. The risotto with the white truffles? Heart stopping! And those generous onions. There's always more, isn't there? If you look for it - there is so much to experience. I need that quote in my life, in my play - it is so close to what my place is about. Just the comparison to the knowledge that together we are all stardust makes me glow. Happy New Year, Linda! I am so lucky to have you in my life!

  18. Linda ~ Osteria Battaglino sounds like my kind of place. Your photos and the descriptions of each dish put me right there. I love that the owner of the vineyard that produced the wine you were drinking was sitting right nearby. And you are right about the colors of the houses. They are dotted all around the Italian countryside ~ red, salmon, yellow and even green ~ and they never seem out of place there amid the vines and terraced gardens.

    Buon anno e non vedo l'ora di fare la tua conoscenza "in person" ~ a presto!

  19. I've never been so hungry after reading a post! I'd love to make the onions, but down the road. gorgeous photographs and a lovely quote at the end. Thank you!

  20. Ciao, here from Chiara's blog, lovely to meet you!
    I am also Italian and a journalist/writer, but I live in New Zealand.

    Happy New Year!

  21. Oh the Slow Food Movements' origin in Italy is such a source of pride for me....a perfect way to eat, unlike the USA. I must try to find this ristorante the next time I visit Italy (planning and budgeting for 2014). Every photo takes me back! Like you, I am drawn to the colors and the architecture of Italian homes. For some reason I was particularly drawn to the shuttered windows with flower-filled window boxes. I just loved it and yearn to return at this very moment!

    Thank you for your wonderful blog!

  22. Linda, This post is just fabulous, your photos, that scenery, it looks like a painting. To take in all that beauty at once is overwhelming, then the food...
    Your descriptions, the gnocchi melting in your mouth. O M G!
    I'm trying to detox right now! ha ha ha.....
    The quote on that etching, beautiful...

  23. Ciao, Linda, piacere di conoscerti. Arrivo anch'io su segnalazione di Chiara, una vera detective dotata di fiuto eccezionale quando si tratta di scoprire blog interessanti come il tuo. Il territorio piemontese e la sua cucina offrono infinite occasioni per ammirare la bellezza della natura, i capolavori dell'arte e la varietà della cucina.Grazie di questo bel contributo. A presto

  24. Delizioso il menu' che ci proponi. Ho apena letto il tuo post sul blog di Chiara, complimenti Linda. un abbraccio, buon 2013, Daniela.

  25. Gorgeous food and gorgeous views! I love those brightly painted buildings too.

    Being an onion-lover, I'd really like to try these.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. Ho letto del tuo blog sul post di Cinzia, complimenti...adesso mi faccio un giretto, per ora quelle cipolle mi hanno fatto venire una gran fame!!!

  28. Dear Linda..
    I'm coming from Chiara's blog too..
    I early discovered your blog and I love it!!..
    Reading your blog is clear how much you love Italy and how much of Italy there is in you!
    I'm very very pleased to meet you!
    I live in the north of Italy, half in Lombardy (my born town)and half in Piedmont (my boyfriend live there).. and I discovered the Piedmont area with him.. I think is a really wonderful area.. almost in autumn..

    hugs and kisses!
    CIAO! :)

  29. What stunning plates of food, and scenery! Brilliant idea with the stuffed onions - very interesting!

  30. It seems that you have a great holiday. The stuffed onion sure looks delicious. I am thinking any variation for it, maybe stuffed with crab meat or rice would be nice. Guess have to use a big onion. :)