cipolline, wild onion
Cipollini (pronounced chip-oh-lee-ni) are a type of onion and a member of the genus Allium. The round flat bulbs are typically very small and range in color from greenish yellow to golden brown. They are pictured above with regular yellow onions in the background for comparison.
There are several websites (including Epicurious, Reference.com and The Food Network) that incorrectly define Cipollini’s as the bulb of a grape hyacinth (genus Muscari). While similar in appearance, they are not the same thing. Muscari bulbs are known as lampascioni and have a bitter taste.
What’s it taste like?
Cipollini onions have a strong onion taste (similar to shallots), but they are also very sweet, making them well suited to braising and roasting.
Where do I get them?
They are starting to appear more frequently in upscale supermarkets and can be found along with the shallots ard garlic at Whole Foods in the US.
When is it best?
Cipollini’s are typically harvested in early autumn, but they are available throughout winter.
How do I use it?
Because they are very small, they can be used whole, making them perfect for stews and braised dishes as they hold their shape much better than sliced onions. Roasting or frying caramelizes the sugars and makes them even more sweet. Use them in place of pearl onions when possible as they have a much better flavour.
Cipollini onions are rich in oligosaccharides and antioxidants.