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Time and again, I want recipes that require few ingredients and just a spoonful of love to add the right flavor to each dish. Like the friggione, it is not just an onion sauce, even if it is that but rather one dish with identity and history.

In 1886, Mrs. Maria Manfredi Baschieri writes the friggione recipe in her household recipe book. These notes reveal that the recipe had already gained popularity by the second half of the 19th century, if not earlier, making it a significant part of culinary history.

Friggione is a rustic dish from the peasant tradition of Bologna and Romagna.

Does it originate in the Bolognese countryside or in Romagna?

The answer seems evident since Baschieri was born and raised in Bologna. However, from childhood and throughout her life, she spend summer vacations at the family home near Rimini.

In those days, middle-class city families who went on vacation to the Riviera hired local maids and cooks for the season.

I wonder if Maria learned how to prepare this sauce from them.
From Romagna, in addition to her husband Ulisse Manfredi, a Bolognese vacationing neighbor of the Baschieri family, she also brought the knowledge of some Romagna dishes.

Friggione of Bologna (onion and tomato pot)

The recipe of the friggione

As I have written, this is not simply a sauce, although it can be considered one strictly.
This is a sauce with foibles. Friggione wants the center of the table, where it can serve as a main course or a side dish.

Friggione in perfect Bolognese style should be a little greasy, almost like ragù alla bolognese.

Not for nothing, once upon a time, some added lard to give substance to the dish.

Again, in the peasant custom of yesteryear, friggione was one dish, often prepared by adding a few pieces of savory sausage or slices of ham (prosciutto crudo). The big pot was placed in the center of the table, with lots of bread, and lunch was served. In fact, the relationship between bread and friggione is very close. The final scarpetta is obligatory; forget the etiquette.

Other uses: you can make crostini or season pasta.
You can consume it warm, lukewarm, or at room temperature.

Personal memory:

I remember when Grandma would fish out the slice of prosciutto, glistening with tomato sauce and quite salty from the long cooking. It was irresistible, and I would eat it with a piece of piadina while the sauce cooled.

 

Friggione of Bologna recipe

The main ingredients 

The main ingredients of that recipe are onion and tomato.

If you can, use white onions. I also tried yellow ones, but after tasting them, I didn’t find the authentic flavor of the friggione. So, as per the traditional recipe, I also say white.

The onion should be well stewed and melt in your mouth. I recommend slicing it thinly.

The sauce -traditionally- despite the long cooking time, should not be thick but fluid.

Fresh or peeled tomatoes are used to make friggione.
We used the latter at home, which grandma had jarred the previous season. She would drain them from their liquid without discarding it. She would then add it while cooking, removing any seeds after cutting the tomatoes into pieces.

Today, many people opt for tomato puree. I also opt for puree, adding what water I need to keep the sauce fluid. I do not use fresh tomatoes or pulp-type preserves because I cannot stand tomato skins. If I choose summer sun-ripened tomatoes, I blanch them for one minute, remove the skin and eventually seeds, and cook them until they are sauce.

Buona cucina, Monica

Cook with me
  • Fricandò is a fresh vegetable stew. Its recipe is similar to that of friggione. Both are dishes of the cucina povera from Emilia-Romagna and are worth trying.
  • Are friggione and onion sauce the same thing? The ingredients are the same, but the preparation has some differences. Here is the recipe for onion sauce.
  • Friggione and piadina romagnola are a great pair.
  • I wrote about the historical and gastronomic ties between Bologna and Romagna HERE.
Reading Tip

In the post Homemade Fruit Syrups And The Bonfire Seasons, I wrote about the homemade self-production of jams, syrups, and a bottle of passata and how their preparation was a ritual that gathered families around large fires in the countryside on hot summer days.

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Friggione of Bologna recipe (tomato and onion pot)

Friggione of Bologna (onion and tomato pot)

Friggione is an onion sauce used as a side dish and main course. It is a peasant and vegetarian recipe with stewed onions and tomato sauce.
Course Main Course, One dish
Cuisine Emilia-Romagna
Keyword Friggione (onion and tomato pot), Friggione of Bologna
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 27 minutes
1 hour 1 hour
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 kg of white onions alternatively yellow onions
  • 50 g of brown sugar
  • 80 g of olive oil
  • 350 g of tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro) or 200 g canned tomatoes without seeds and strained liquid to add separately
  • salt to taste
  • 100 g of water, warm or cold
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam or sugar optional

Instructions

  • Remove the skin from the onions and slice thinly (remove the green core if there is any).
  • Transfer to a large bowl with half the sugar, cover with cold water, and stir.
  • Let stand for 30 minutes, then change the water, add the rest of the sugar, stir, and stand for another 30 minutes.
  • Once the onions are drained, place the olive oil and onion in a high-sided pan. Cook them gently, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.
  • Remove the lid and cook for 15 minutes on a medium-small stove over low heat, stirring until any liquid from the onions has completely evaporated.
  • Add tomato sauce, salt, water, and more olive oil if needed and mix (at this point, I usually add another 20 g of oil). Also, add sugar or apricot jam and stir. Cook with the pan covered and over low heat for one hour or as long as needed if the sauce is too slow. Conversely, if it seems too thick, add a little water. If you like it more stewed, cook it for 2 hours.
  • Let rest, taste, and adjust the salt.

Food tips

  • Grandma Sara always added apricot jam to the friggione.
  • If you have time, soak the already sliced onions in cold water and sugar, changing the water even three times and adding a little sugar each time. This way, the onion becomes sweet and irresistible as it cooks.
  • Add a slice of ham to make the friggione more flavorful or some sausage to make the second course richer. Do it toward the end of cooking to prevent the sauce from being too salty. Don't add salt while cooking; adjust at the end if necessary.

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