One Pot French Onion Pasta

This French Onion Pasta is a pantry friendly, budget friendly, ONE POT wonder that’s luxuriously creamy WITHOUT any heavy cream! The onions are deeply caramelized (all you do is stir) then simmered with sauce spiked with a few secret ingredients for unparalleled complex sweetness and rich umami.  This deceptively simple recipe is also wonderfully versatile – variations included!

Watch How to Make French Onion Pasta

up close of serving French Onion Pasta showing how creamy it is


 

Why you’ll love this French Onion Pasta Recipe

  • ONE POT. Less dishes to wash!
  • PANTRY FRIENDLY. You’ll be amazed at how humble, pantry friendly ingredients transform into a luxurious, indulgent feast.
  • ELEVATED INGREDIENTS.  The sauce is enhanced and rounded out with Worcestershire, soy sauce and beef bouillon that make it exponentially more delicious as they deepen the flavor to complement and stand up against the intensely sweet caramelized flavor of the onions.
  • DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE TO MAKE. You don’t have to babysit the onions like risotto, you can come and go and stir in between other tasks.  Or just pull up a chair, put on your favorite podcast and watch the magical transformation before your eyes. 
  • CREAMY. Simmering the pasta with water and evaporated milk creates luxuriously creamy pasta without a roux or heavy cream!
  • BEST CHEESE.  While many recipes use Swiss, this French Onion Pasta recipe specifies Swiss Gruyere, 1000X better!
  • WONDERFULLY VERSATILE. Add veggies, protein, etc. – variations included!
top view of serving French Onion Soup Pasta in a bowl garnished with parsley
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 Ingredients for French Onion Soup Pasta

Basic pantry friendly ingredients combine to create this flavor exploding pasta. Let’s take a closer look at what you need (measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Pasta: My favorite pasta shape for this French Onion Pasta recipe is orecchiette because it’s a shorter, thicker cut of pasta, so it pairs well with richer sauces and cooks quickly and evenly.
  • Onions: Yellow onions are the best onions for caramelizing, please don’t substitute with any other onion! Slice the onions into 1/8-inch rings (I use my mandoline slicer). It will seem like a lot of onions but you will be amazed at how much they cook down.
  • Garlic: I use 4 cloves of garlic and it is divine but feel free to use less if you prefer. You may also use 1 teaspoon garlic powder – but the real stuff is so much better.
  • Water + beef bouillon: This creates beef broth for less $$. You can use granulated beef bouillon, beef bouillon cubes or bouillon base (Zoup!, Better Than Bouillon, etc).  If using cubes, crush and add directly to the water, don’t dissolve in water separately.
  • Evaporated milk: This is used instead of all water for extra creaminess and instead of milk because it doesn’t split when simmered.
  • Worcestershire sauce: This a flavor bomb all packed into one bottle.  Just a splash deepens the complexity of the French Onion Pasta with its intense umami flavor.
  • Soy sauce:  This also enhances the umami of the sauce.  Please use  reduced sodium soy sauce so we can control the salt.
  • Herbs: Fresh thyme and fresh parsley or substitute with dried.
  • Spices: The sauce is seasoned to perfection with dried oregano, paprika and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Gruyere:  Its sweet, slightly salty, creamy, nuttiness boasts enough flavor to cut through the richness of the caramelized onion sauce.   Gruyere is a semi-hard, pale yellow Swiss cheese made of whole milk. It is traditionally located with the specialty cheeses in the deli section of the grocery store.  If you have the option to purchase aged Gruyere, then go with that, as the flavors become more complex as the cheese matures.
  • Parmesan cheese: It’s wonderfully salty and nutty to complement the robust sweet onions.  For best results, use ONLY freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  It is much more flavorful and melts much better than powdered or pre-shredded cheese.
French Onion Pasta recipe simmered in one pot

French Onion Pasta variations

  • Use a different pasta: Use a sturdy, short cut pasta such as radiatori, medium shells, rotini, fusilli, etc.  Don’t use a larger pasta because it is more difficult to keep submerged during cooking so it won’t cook evenly.
  • Use beef broth: Swap the water and beef bouillon for 4 cups beef broth.
  • French Onion Alfredo: Stir in half and half or heavy cream to finish create a creamier version.
  • Add mushrooms:  Slice 12 ounces cremini mushrooms ¼-inch thick. Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Increase temperature to medium-high and add half of the mushrooms. Give them a stir to evenly coat in the butter then arrange mushrooms in an even layer. Cook mushrooms for 3 minutes per side or until golden. Remove mushrooms from skillet and repeat with remaining mushrooms; transfer all mushrooms to a plate and add to the pasta at the end of cooking.
  • Add sautéed vegetables: Sauté vegetables separately from the onions and stir into the pasta after simmering. If you really want to camouflage the veggies, mince them in the food processor – they’ll blend right in!
  • Add roasted vegetables:  Instead of sautéing the veggies, use your favorite roasted veggies such as roasted broccoli, roasted cauliflowerroasted asparagusroasted Brussels sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Add ground sausage, beef, chicken or turkey:  Brown the meat separately and stir it into the pasta with the water before simmering.
  • Use a different cheese: Try Provolone, Gouda, Pepper Jack, Asiago, Fontina, Muenster, etc. to switch up the flavor profile.
  • Make it spicy: Spice it up with additional red pepper flakes. You can also add additional red pepper flakes to individual servings to keep the pasta family friendly.  
  • Gluten-free French Onion Pasta: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Dairy-Free French Onion Pasta: Omit the cheese and swap the evaporated milk for non-dairy milk of choice.
  • Vegetarian French Onion Pasta: Substitute the water and beef bouillon for vegetable broth and use vegetarian Worcestershire sauce.

How to make French Onion Pasta

Let’s take a closer look at how to make French Onion Pasta with step-by-step photos (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Slice onions. Slice onions into rings, about ⅛-inch thick.
showing how to make French Onion Pasta by slicing onions using a mandolin slicer
  • Step 2: Caramelize Onions. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized and deeply golden brown, about 35 minutes.
a collage showing how to make French Onion Pasta with different stages of caramelizing onions
showing how to make French Onion Pasta with final stages of caramelizing onions, showing what they should look like
  • Step 3: Add garlic, etc. Once the onions are caramelized, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 30 seconds.
showing how to make French Onion Pasta by adding garlic and red pepper flakes to the onions
  • Step 3: Add liquids and seasonings. Add the seasonings, beef bouillon, evaporated milk and water.
showing how to make French Onion Soup Pasta by adding beef broth, evaporated milk and spices to the onions to simmer
  • Step 4:Boil pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and reduce to a simmer over medium-high heat for 11-14 minutes (uncovered) OR until al dente.
showing how to make French Onion Pasta by adding the pasta once the liquid is boiling
  • Step 5: Add cheeses. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Gruyere cheese a handful at a time until melted, followed by the Parmesan until melted. Viola, dinner is served!
     
a collage showing how to make French Onion Pasta by stirring in cheeses until creamy

French Onion Soup Pasta Recipe tips

  • Use a large pot: A 6-8 quart Dutch oven is ideal for this recipe because it comfortably contains all of the ingredients for stress free caramelizing and simmering.
  • Cut onions uniformly: Try and slice your onions into uniform rings so they cook evenly.  I highly recommend a mandolin slicer to do it in minutes!
  • Add additional oil as needed: Add more oil if the onions start sticking to the pan or scorching.
  • Don’t increase the heat: The onions will take at least 30 minutes to caramelize. Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat to speed up the process, we want the onions to cook slowly to release all their sugars.
  • Stir more often at the end of cooking: You don’t need to stir your onions constantly, but you do need to stir them every few minutes to ensure they are cooking evenly. You will want to stir them more often when they are reduced and mostly caramelized because then they have a stronger chance of burning.
  • Caramelize more: If you think your onions are caramelized but not sure, cook on!  The last few minutes of caramelization is crucial for intensely sweet onions, because the deeper the color, the deeper the flavor.  They should be quite dark but not burnt. 
  • Cook pasta at a rolling boil: Wait to add the pasta until the liquid is at a rolling boil, otherwise it can become chewy or gummy.  
  • Stir pasta often: You don’t want the pasta to stick on the bottom and burn. As you stir, push the pasta into an even layer so it’s covered in liquid.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta! Test the pasta occasionally – it will continue to cook while you stir in the cheese and from the residual heat from the large pot, so remove it from heat when al dente.
  • There will be extra liquid: The pasta won’t soak in all the liquid once al dente, so don’t worry about it looking “saucy.” The excess liquid will combine with the cheese and become the sauce.
  • Add more water as needed: If there isn’t extra liquid (due to variables in one pot recipes such as pot sizes and materials, actual simmering temperatures, etc.), and the pasta isn’t cooked by the time the liquid is evaporated, add additional water ½ cup a time as needed.
  • Shred the cheese yourself: For the best pasta, use real, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano right off of the block and not any powdered or pre-shredded cheeses.  Parmigiano-Reggiano is Parmesan produced in Italy that has been aged for at least two years. In the U.S. you can still find tasty “Parmesan,” but it is not regulated, and typically only aged 10 months so it’s not as flavorful or complex.
  • Add the cheese slowly. Add your cheeses a handful at a time, stirring until completely melted, before adding more. This helps the cheese melt more successfully.
  • Adjust to taste: Make this French Onion Pasta recipe your own! You may want extra thyme, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, etc.
showing how to make French Onion Pasta by topping with freshly parsley to finish

What to serve with Easy French Onion Pasta

Complete the feast with a tasty salad or veggies! Here are a few ideas:

serving French Onion Pasta in a bowl with freshly cracked pepper

French Onion Pasta FAQs

Where does French Onion Pasta come from?

French Onion Pasta is inspired by famous French Onion Soup, but instead of cheesy bread, pasta is used!

There are two competing legends about the origin of French Onion Soup. The first legend claims King Louis XV returned home from hunting to practically bare cupboards.  All his cook could find were onions, butter, and champagne so they were thrown into a pot and French Onion Soup was born.

The second legend claims Nicolas Appert (inventor of canning) prepared the soup at the hotel kitchen of La Pomme d’Or in Châlons-en-Champagne, when the Duke of Lorraine stopped in on his way to the Palace of Versailles. The duke was so spellbound by the soup that he left his chambers in his bathrobe to rush to the kitchen to learn the recipe for French Onion Soup so he could take it back to his court.  Appert dedicates his French Onion Soup recipe in his 1831 cookbook to the duke.

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top view of serving French Onion Soup Pasta in a bowl garnished with parsley

Easy French Onion Pasta

This French Onion Pasta is a pantry friendly, budget friendly, ONE POT wonder that's luxuriously creamy WITHOUT any heavy cream! The onions are deeply caramelized (all you do is stir) then simmered with sauce spiked with a few secret ingredients for unparalleled complex sweetness and rich umami.  This deceptively simple recipe is also wonderfully versatile – see post for variations!
Servings: 6 servings

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Ingredients

FOR THE ONIONS

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large yellow onions, sliced into rings 1/8-inch thick (Mandoline recommended)
  • 1/8 tsp EACH salt and pepper

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 4 cups water (may sub beef broth and omit bouillon)
  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons beef bouillon (granulated, base or cubes) (may omit and use beef broth instead of water)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced (or ¾ tsp dried)
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, paprika, pepper

Add Last

  • 1 pound short cut pasta, uncooked (I use orecchiette)
  • 5 oz. freshly shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Instructions

Caramelize onions

  • Add onions: Melt butter in olive oil in a large (7 quart) Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, ⅛ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.
  • Caramelize: Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and dark golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Turn down the heat and/or add additional butter/olive oil if the onions start to scorch.

Make sauce:

  • Sauté garlic, etc. Once the onions are caramelized, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add liquids and seasonings: Add the water and half of the evaporated milk. Whisk the cornstarch with remaining evaporated milk and add to the pot. Increase heat to high to bring to a boil while you stir in the beef bouillon and remaining herbs and seasonings.
  • Boil pasta: Once boiling, add the pasta and reduce to a simmer over medium-high heat for 11-14 minutes (uncovered) OR until al dente, stirring often so the bottom doesn’t burn, then pushing the pasta into an even layer so it’s covered in liquid. The pasta should still have some excess liquid (that will become the sauce) once the pasta is done cooking.
  • Add cheeses: Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Gruyere cheese a handful at a time until melted, followed by the Parmesan until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. If you would like a saucier pasta, stir in additional water or milk. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Video

Notes

  • Meal Prep: The onions can be sliced and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. You can go one step further and caramelize the onions and add the rest of the ingredients (except pasta and cheeses), cover and refrigerate. When ready to make, bring to a boil then continue with the recipe. 
  • Leftovers: Let the pasta cool to room temperature.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or stovetop. adding a splash of water or milk if you would like it saucier. 

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2 Comments

  1. Lauren says

    Made this for Valentine’s Day! So delicious! Loved being able to just cook the noodles in the sauce. Will definitely be making again

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Lauren, I’m so pleased it was a hit for your special day!