A crispy cheese crust covers a pool of creamy pasta with sweet and salty caramelized onions. The classic combination of cheese and onions as in the famous French Onion soup, but in a pasta bake form. Perfect for a Sunday dinner or Holiday feast. It's completely vegetarian and absolutely delicious!
Nothing beats a hot piping dish full of creamy pasta topped with a crunchy crust. Pasta Bakes or "Pasta al Forno" in Italian, are one of my favorite comfort foods. It doesn't matter the sauce, the veggies, the toppings. What really matters is the crunchy cheesy topping which makes it so delicious.
Pasta Bakes are the easier way to make Lasagna as instead of layering pasta, sauce and toppings, you mix all of it together and bake in a large baking dish for the whole family. One of the most famous pasta bakes is "Baked Ziti", which comes from Southern Italy, but pasta casseroles are enjoyed throughout Italy with different sauces, pasta shapes and traditional recipes.
What is the difference between French Onion and Caramelized Onions?
"French Onion" comes from the classic and famous French Onion Soup, which is made with caramelized onions and topped with a slice of bread covered in melted cheese. So caramelized onions are part of the French Onion recipe. The reason I called this recipe French Onion Pasta Bake is because it has the two main ingredients of French Onion Soup, caramelized onions, and melted cheese.
Although I didn't use all the ingredients and flavors which characterize the soup. For example, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and bay leaves. So the flavor of this pasta bake will not be exactly like a French Onion Soup, but that was not my intent. This is simply a creamy caramelized onions pasta topped with cheese, but this title is not as catchy!
How to make French Onion Pasta Bake
The first step to make this recipe would be to prepare the Béchamel sauce (White sauce). You can also buy the jarred white sauce, but it's very easy to make with just three staple ingredients: butter, flour, and milk.
How to make the Béchamel sauce
In a pan, melt ½ tablespoon of butter, then add ½ tablespoon of flour and mix well to create a creamy paste, called roux. Add 1 cup of milk (either cold or room temperature will work fine) and mix well with a whisk until the roux is fully dissolved. Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat and whisk slowly until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.
The most important step is to caramelize the onions. In a large pan add the sliced onions, sugar, and salt. Cook at high heat until the onions start to brown (1), then pour the wine, add the herbs and water. Turn down the heat and let the onions cook until soft (2).
In the same pan add the cooked pasta (cook 4-5 minutes less than what's in the packaging instructions), the béchamel sauce (if it's too thick, add some milk), and mix well. Transfer all to a baking dish (3), then top with abundant grated cheese and Parmigiano cheese (4).
Bake in the preheated oven at 390°F/200°C for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
FAQ & Tips
Any cheese that melts will work great for this recipe. I used grated Gouda cheese, but you can also use Gruyere, Fontina, Emmentaler, Comte, and so on. The cheese will create a layer on top of the pasta which will prevent the pasta from drying out.
You can use either yellow, white, or red onions for this recipe, but I personally prefer to caramelize yellow onions as the caramelization brings out a nice sweet flavor. Red onions are too strong in my opinion, but it depends on your preference.
Yes, you could. I like to use white wine as it has a milder flavor which goes well with onions. If you want to enhance the flavor, you can use red wine. If instead, you want to skip wine altogether, you can do that as well!
You can keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat, I suggest you add a couple of tablespoons of milk to the pasta so it won't dry out, and then reheat for 10 minutes in the oven to keep the crusty top crispy.
If you like this recipe, try these other pasta bakes recipes:
- Classic Tuscan Pasta Bake
- Pesto Zucchini and Mushrooms Pasta Bake
- Pumpkin and Sausage Lasagna
- Baked rice with Savoy Cabbage
- Mushroom and Ham stuffed Shells
You can find step-by-step photos and tips in the post above.
French Onion Pasta Bake
- 3 Yellow Onions
- ½ tablespoon Sugar
- 2 tablespoon White Wine
- ¼ cup Water
- Black Pepper
- Thyme, dried
- Sage, dried
- 1 cup Béchamel sauce, see notes
- ½ cup Grated Cheese, see notes
- 2 tablespoon Parmigiano cheese
- 6.5 oz Short Pasta
- Preheat the oven to 390°F /200°C.
- If you make homemade béchamel sauce, make it first and set it aside for later.
- Peel and cut the onions into¼ inch slices. Add the onions to a large pan with the sugar and cook at high heat until they start to brown. Add the white wine and let the alcohol evaporate.
- Lower the heat and add the water. Season with salt, pepper thyme, and sage. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and toss the pasta. Cook for 3-4 minutes less than what is mentioned in the package instructions. It will finish cooking in the oven.
- Add the pasta to the pan with the onions and add the béchamel sauce. If the white sauce is too dense, add some milk. It needs to be quite loose as the pasta will absorb the liquid while cooking in the oven.
- Mix well, then transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Mine is a 10.5x8 inches (26x20 cm) oval dish. Sprinkle the grated cheese and the Parmigiano cheese on top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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