Embrace the delicious and historic Venetian liver and onions recipe, a delightful fusion of tender liver and sweet, caramelised onions. This nutritious and flavourful dish is simple to prepare and pairs perfectly with creamy polenta or smooth mashed potatoes, making it a fantastic addition to your culinary repertoire.

Servings

 

4

Ready In:

 

30 min

Calories:

 

502

Good For:

 

Dinner

About this Recipe

By: Silvana Lanzetta

I’ve always had a soft spot for liver, particularly when it’s cooked the Venetian way, loaded with onions. It takes me right back to my childhood, when my mum would whip it up for us, and I couldn’t have been happier. I’ve never quite understood why liver gets such a bad rap. It’s honestly a fabulous meat, chock-full of nutrition, and brimming with vitamins and minerals. Plus, it tastes amazing!
The Venetian liver and onion dish, in particular, is a taste sensation. The sweetness of the onions complements the robust flavour of the liver perfectly, creating a truly scrumptious meal. And if you take the time to marinate the liver in milk beforehand, you’ll be rewarded with an even milder taste and tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat. Trust me, it’s a game-changer!
Venetian Liver with onions close up
venice bridge seen from a canal

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Diving into the rich history and origins of Venetian liver, it’s fascinating to discover that this dish has truly ancient roots. In fact, the first traces of this recipe are found in a famous cookbook dating back to between the first century BC and the first century AD. The author is the renowned Roman gastronome Apicius.
While this manuscript doesn’t contain the exact traditional recipe we know today, it does feature Apicius‘ famous recipe for liver with figs – a scrumptious dish from antiquity. So, you might ask, how does this connect with our beloved Venetian liver? Well, numerous food historians have found striking correlations between these two recipes. The preparation is identical, with the simple substitution of onions for figs. Just like onions, figs were used to temper the robust, iron-rich taste of the liver. This connection has led historians to believe that the Venetian liver recipe is a clever adaptation of the original, tailored to the ingredients available in Venice at the time.
 
Venetian-style liver has gained a loyal following around the globe, celebrated for its bold, sweet, and sour flavours. Countless restaurants in Venice and beyond offer this traditional dish in various forms.
 
Despite being a dish centred around offal, Venetian-style liver is straightforward to prepare. All you need to do is follow the steps in the recipe and keep the ingredient quantities in mind. Before you know it, you’ll be savouring this delicious, time-honoured dish!
a bowl of diced liver
close up of sliced white onions

Nutrition

 

Enjoy this Venetian  liver and onions recipe as part of a balanced diet, as it provides a good source of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. Pair it with a fibre-rich side dish, like vegetables or whole grains, for a well-rounded, nutritious meal.

  • Proteins 30% 30%
  • Carbs 15% 15%
  • Fats 55% 55%
Venetian liver with onions in a white plate, with mush potatoes on the side

The Ingredients

Liver

Are you looking to whip up a batch of Venetian liver and onions, but unsure about which liver to use? Well, tradition says pork liver is the way to go, but if you prefer a milder taste, I recommend going for veal liver instead. Not only is veal liver more delicate in flavour, but it also has a softer texture that’s sure to please even those who may not be big fans of offal.

Vinegar

The secret to taming the bold, rich flavour of liver is to deglaze it with white wine vinegar. This little trick adds a beautiful layer of complexity to your dish, making every bite even more delightful. While the traditional recipe calls for white wine vinegar, feel free to get creative with white wine or even lemon juice! Personally, I adore all three options, so it’s really up to your personal taste or what you’ve got on hand. Just remember to include that touch of acidity to truly elevate the flavours of your dish.

Marinade

Marinating is not just a suggestion, but highly recommended, especially if you’re not usually a fan of liver. It not only mellows the strong flavour, but also tenderises the meat. Fortunately, you have a few options when it comes to marinating your liver.

The classic method is to submerge it in full-fat milk and let it rest in the fridge for 2 hours. If you’re lactose intolerant, don’t worry! You can use a mixture of water and vinegar, with equal parts of each, to cover the meat. Again, allow it to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. Alternatively, you can swap the vinegar for white wine or lemon juice.

Another option is to let it soak in salted water for 2 hours. Or, you can try the traditional marinade of olive oil, vinegar, and chopped sage leaves. No matter which route you take, you’ll end up with a far more delectable meat, so don’t skip marinating if you can help it!

Onions

The secret to making this dish delightful, even for those who aren’t usually fans of liver, lies in the onions. Their natural sweetness perfectly balances the bold liver flavour, creating a harmony on your plate. Ideally, you’d use the traditional cipolla bianca di Chioggia, but since it’s not easily found outside Italy, simply opt for a white or brown sweet onion instead. Steer clear of red onions, as they’re too strong for this recipe. To get the ideal texture, slice the onions super thin – a mandoline slicer will be your best friend here!

The key to unlocking the onions’ creamy goodness is cooking them low and slow. In this recipe, I suggest letting them cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes, but if you can, feel free to let them simmer for up to an hour. Just make sure they don’t fry and brown, as that would change the whole taste experience!

Herbs

When it comes to choosing the perfect herbs for your dish, you can’t go wrong with either sage or parsley – but not both at once! Depending on your herb of choice, you’ll add them at different stages of the cooking process to bring out their best flavours.

If you decide on sage, simply toss it in with the onions, letting it work its magic as everything cooks together, releasing that wonderful flavour. On the other hand, if parsley is your pick, hold off until the end, sprinkling it over the finished dish just before you serve it up. This way, you’ll enjoy the fresh, vibrant taste it adds to your Venetian liver masterpiece.

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

Hi, I’m Silvana, a 4th generation artisan pasta maker from Naples. I have been holding pasta making classes in London since 2014. I want to share with you my knowledge and passion for pasta making and Italian cuisine.

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Venetian liver with onions in a white plate, with mush potatoes on the side

Venetian Liver and Onions


  • Author: Silvana
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 portions 1x

Description

Savour the delectable Venetian liver and onions, a simple yet flavourful dish that pairs tender liver with sweet caramelised onions.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 600 g veal or pork liver, cut into thin slices
  • 600 g white onions
  • 60 g extra virgin olive oil
  • 30g butter
  • 4 tbsp of white wine vinegar
  • 1 handful of sage
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the marinade (optional, but recommended)

  • 1 litre of milk

Instructions

  1. Start by rinsing the liver slices under cold running water. After that, cut the liver into strips approximately 2 to 3 centimetres wide, taking care to remove the white skin, as it can become bitter when cooked. Place the liver in a bowl and cover it with milk, ensuring all pieces are submerged. Allow the liver to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours. This step will help to reduce any bitterness in the liver and tenderise the meat.
  2. In the meantime, thinly slice the onions using a mandoline slicer for the best results. Melt the butter and oil together in a large saucepan over medium heat. To infuse the mixture with flavour, add a few sage leaves. Incorporate the onions into the pan, season them with salt, and pour in the white wine vinegar. Cook the onions on very low heat for approximately 15-20 minutes, ensuring they soften and wilt without browning.
  3. While the onions are cooking, drain the liver and cut it into strips about 3mm thick. Once the onions have wilted, increase the heat to high and add the liver to the saucepan.
  4. Cook the liver over high heat for 5 minutes, or until it turns white. Keep the liver tender by ensuring it is not overcooked, as this can result in dry and tough meat. Season the dish with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve the Venetian-style liver straight away, accompanied by a side of creamy polenta or smooth mashed potatoes for a delicious and satisfying meal.

Notes

For this recipe, it is advisable to use coarse salt, as it aids in drawing out moisture from the onions more quickly.

When the dish is finished cooking, consider enhancing the flavour with a drizzle of vinegar or a splash of lemon juice.

For those who are lactose intolerant, an alternative marinating option for the liver is to use a combination of oil and vinegar. Combine a cup of white wine vinegar with a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl. If desired, enhance the marinade with some chopped sage. Add the liver to the mixture, ensuring it is fully immersed in the marinade for optimal flavour infusion.

It is essential to keep the liver’s cooking time brief, as overcooking this particular cut of meat can result in a bitter taste.

To enjoy the dish at its best, serve the Venetian-style liver immediately after cooking, since liver meat does not keep well for extended periods. However, you may prepare the onions in advance to save time.

Please note that freezing this dish is not recommended.

If you find yourself with leftover Venetian liver and onions, why not transform it into a delightful pâté? Simply blend the remaining liver with an equal quantity of butter to create a smooth and flavourful spread. This exquisite pâté pairs wonderfully with toast, crackers or crostini, offering an indulgent way to enjoy any extra liver and elevate your next appetiser or snack.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Marinade: 2-3 Hours
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Meat
  • Method: Pan Fried
  • Cuisine: Italian
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