Pasta with I'itoi Cream Sauce

Sometimes food stuns me. This was the case last week when my world of onions got a bit broader. Finally, I found a bulb that could unite onion lovers and loathers alike, the I’itoi. Botanists and historians debate the history of this upright little onion and suggest importation by Spanish conquistadors or Jesuit missionaries in the late 17th century. Since arrival, the Tohono O-odham have been carefully cultivating the plant, much to our good fortune. I’itoi is thought to be named for a spirit that protects the top of Babuquivari peak, a blessed highland of the O-odham, near Ajo, where the noble onion has grown for the past 300 years. Time has only sweetened these little onions and the I’itoi today are much more delicate and amusing than your typical garden varieties of green onions. They burst with a complex sweetness free from the stinging, tear-provoking acid of others. Resembling baby shallot bulbs, the I’itoi mingle the flavor of green onions in their tops with a delicate echo of shallot in their violet bulbs. Whether served raw, glazed or gently blanched in cream and tossed with ravioli as I have done here, know that they are not to be missed. Pair these with any savory dish or sneak them into the bellies of any skeptic who has ever whispered the words “I don’t like onions” to make an instant believer.
By / Photography By Brenna Zumbro | February 15, 2016


1. Bring water for the ravioli to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, sweat onions with oil, salt and chili powder on medium heat for approximately 4 minutes.
3. Add ravioli to the boiling water and cook until nearly tender.
4. Deglaze the onion mixture with wine and cook until no alcohol remains.
5. Add cream and reduce by a ⅓ (3–4 minutes).
6. Season with marjoram and black pepper.
7. Toss with the pasta and serve immediately.


  • 1 bunch i’itoi onions, scrubbed free of dirt and sliced thinly from root end to 1–2 inches above bulb
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram, minced
  • Healthy crack black pepper
  • 2 cups ravioli (your favorite recipe, or my version of agnolotti col plin—see
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