Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Cabbage, and Smoked Ham

September 20, 2011

We got an enormous head of green cabbage in our CSA box last weekend, and I’ve been slowly using it up in various ways. Caramelized onions are a favorite food of my husband’s, so when I came across this pasta recipe in my Bon Appetit cookbook, I knew he would love it. As you may realize based on how many I post, I love pasta dishes in general – even if they contain meat, the quantity is a lot less than a meat-based main course, making them nice and inexpensive! This recipe is full of German flavors – smoked ham, cabbage, and caraway seeds. The final result is nice and homey, perfect for a fall evening.

Caramelizing onions is a somewhat slow process because the heat has to be low enough to keep them from burning. They can be caramelized faster over higher heat, but you have to be willing to stand there and stir them constantly! This recipe takes a middle road and cooks them over medium-high heat for 25 minutes, but you have to remember to stir them fairly often so they don’t burn. The onions make the whole recipe take between 45 minutes to an hour total time, but the bacon and onions can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated; reheat the onions before adding the cabbage to sauté.

Pasta with caramelized onions, cabbage, and ham

Serves 4 to 6


  • 4  bacon slices
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2  pounds onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2  teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 4  cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/4 small head)
  • 1 1/2  cups diced smoked ham (about 8 ounces)
  • 12  ounces fusilli or rotini pasta
  • 1/3  cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2  cup (about) beef or chicken broth


  1. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels, then crumble. Do not drain bacon drippings from skillet; add enough vegetable oil to measure 1/4 cup and heat until shimmering. Add onions and caraway seeds; sauté until onions are dark brown, about 25 minutes. Add cabbage and ham; sauté until cabbage wilts, about 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain and return to pot.
  3. Add crumbled bacon, onion mixture, and cheese to pasta. Toss over medium heat until warmed through, adding broth by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten if pasta is dry, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; serve.

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