When I discovered tiny, rice-sized acini di pepe pasta, I immediately plotted a risotto strategy: gradually adding liquid until the pasta plumps. This year I learned from Keith Schroeder, our Cooking Class columnist, to toast the pasta for extra flavor (it almost tastes malted). The salt of the blue cheese balances the sweetness of the caramelized onions.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups minced white onion
1 1/4 cups uncooked acini di pepe pasta (about 8.4 ounces)
3 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
1/2 cup unoaked white wine
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Gorgonzola piccante or other hard, salty blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
How to Make It
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes or until onion is light brown, creamy, and caramelized, stirring occasionally. (The longer it cooks, the sweeter the caramelization, but watch for hot spots and burning. If liquid cooks off too quickly, add a bit of water.) Remove pan from heat; set aside.
Heat a heavy skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add dry pasta; cook 5 minutes or until the pasta is a nice toasty color, stirring constantly. Add onion and 1 cup stock, stirring frequently until stock is absorbed. As the pasta absorbs the stock and liquid bubbles away, add wine and then more stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next. You want the pasta to be al dente and "together" but not mushy. When it's done, stir in salt and pepper. Remove from heat, and add cheese; stir gently to mostly melt the cheese, but you still want chunks. Transfer to serving plates, and garnish with thyme. Serve immediately.