Italian food without onion or garlic? Si, it’s possible

If you’re one of the seemingly ever-increasing number of people who can’t seem to handle onion and/or garlic and think your love for Italian cooking is finito as a result, well we’ve got good news for you. Tony Percuoco from Brisbane’s magnificent, Tartufo, presented his tips at this year’s Noosa Food & Wine Festival to a jam-packed audience on how to either avoid cooking with your allium enemies at all, or how to lessen their impact. And, even if you’re one of the lucky buggers that can eat all of the onion and garlic, Tony’s got some winners for you, too.

It all started three years ago when Tony and his wife, Gordana, gave up smoking and, shortly after, noticed that any heavy eating of onion or garlic would see them both wake up with a dry mouth “as if we’d smoked a packet of cigarettes the night before,” he said. Knowing the two ingredients were staples in Italian cuisine, Tony started to investigate strategies to avoid them.

“There is a perception that you must use onion and garlic in Italian cooking and this just isn’t true.”

“Using no onion or garlic is easy. Just use the freshest possible produce you can source. The more water, the better,” Tony said.

A scholar at the school of thought that onion and garlic should never be cooked together (OMG!), Tony swears by some hard and fast tips to mitigate the nasty effects and also to help those of you who are following FODMAP in a quest to see whether fermenting fructans could be the cause of your bloating or, well, other ‘bubbly’ experiences.

So without further ado, and in the interest of brevity, here we go:

  • If using onion in a salad or a light sauce, peel it and let it stand for 30 – 60 minutes before cutting. This will see the enzymes reduce markedly and lessen the onion’s acidity
  • If making a ragu or caramelising onion, get straight in, chop up and cook immediately for best use
  • Garlic is fine to use, if you don’t cut it. Take a whole clove and cook in oil only until golden brown. Tony will add three cloves to oil (either olive oil or vegetable oil, never extra virgin) for his napoli sauce. Once golden, he removes them. It’s all about infusion
  • While some excellent cooks swear by combining onion and garlic, Tony does not. For a tomato-based sauce, or with chilli, he swears by only garlic (and never cut, but infused in oil as a whole clove as above) and onions only for a Marsala or cream sauce, and
  • Never use onion on the second day. Like, ever

Do you have any anti-allium tricks you think we should know about? We’d love to hear from you, so drop us a note in the comments.



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