If you haven't served cooked onions, you may not be aware of how well baking or simmering tames the sharp, slightly tart bulb into a sweet pulp.

Instead of thinking of onions as a relish or topping to salads, hamburgers or stews, think of it as part of an entree. Stuff it with meat or poultry, or serve it covered with protein-rich cheese for a quick supper. You'll find the sweet Spanish variety, selling for about 25 cents per medium onion, is an economical main-course stretcher.

Up to an hour before dinner, prepare the sausage- or spinach-and-cheese-stuffed onions. The breadstuffed onions can wait 10 minutes. While the onion dish is in the oven, prepare the rest of the meal.

With the sausage- or spinach-and-cheese-stuffed onions, serve a wilted lettuce salad using hot bacon dressing and a side dish of baked acorn squash flavored with maple syrup. With the bread-stuffed onions, include an entree, such as broiled Polish sausage or baked fish.

SAVORY SAUSAGE-STUFFED

ONIONS

Time: About 1 hour

Cost: About $2

(6 servings) 6 medium or 3 large sweet Spanish onions Salted water 1 pound fresh pork sausage 2 cups soft bread crimbs 2 tablespoons chooped parsley Salt and pepper to taste

Peel onions. Cut large onions in half crosswise. Place in large kettle with one inch of salted water. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer 10 minutes or until onions are almost tender. Drain. If using smaller onions, leave whole, cook and drain as above. Cut a 1/2-inch slice from tops of whole onions. Scoop out center leaving a 1/2-inch shell. If using large onion halves, hollow out leaving 1/2-inch shell. Drain well. Chop scooped-out portions. Reserve 1/3 cup. Saute sausage until browned and crumbly. Fold in bread crumbs, parsley and reserved chopped onion. Season to taste. Sprinkle onion shells lightly with salt. Spoon in sausage mixture, mounding as necessary. Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

SPINACH-CHEESE-STUFFED

ONIONS

Time: About 1 hour

Cost: Less than $1.75 6 medium or 3 large sweet Spanish onions Salted water 1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, cooked according to package directions 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened 6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese Salt and pepper to taste

Peel onions. Cut large onions in half, crosswise. Place onions in large kettle with one inch salted water. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer 10 minutes or just until onions are tender. Drain. If using smaller onions, leave whole, cook and drain as above. Cut a one-inch slice from tops of whole onions. Scoop out centers, leaving 1/2-inch shell. If using large onion halves hollow out leaving 1/2-inch shell. Drain well. Chop scooped-out portions. Reserve 1/4 cup. Combine drained spinach, cream cheese, 4 tablespoons parmesan and reserved chopped onion. Season to taste. Slightly salt onion shells. Fill with spinach mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake in 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly.

BREAD-STUFFED SWEET

SPANISH ONIONS

Time: About 50 minutes

Cost: About $1.25

(6 servings) 6 medium or 3 large sweet Spanish onions Salted water 1 package (6 ounces) bread stuffing mix 1 1/2 cups water 1/4 cup butter or margarine Salt

Peel onions. Cut large ones in half, crosswise. Place onions in one inch salted water. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer 10 minutes or just until onions are tender. Drain. If using smaller onions, leave whole, cook and drain as above. Cut a one-inch slice from tops of whole onions. Scoop out centers, leaving 1/2-inch shell. If using large onion halves, hollow out leaving 1/2-inch shell. Drain well. Combine stuffing mix with water and butter. Lightly salt onion shells. Fill with stuffing mix. Bake in 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. CAPTION: Picture, no caption