Feb 22, 2011

Ziti alla Genovese recipe

This delectable pasta recipe is called "alla genovese," but it's not a dish particular to Genoa. This is a purely Neapolitan delight.

ziti alla genovese recipe

If you've been reading my posts, you'll know I always share a little bit of history. "La Genovese" is said to have been first prepared around the time when Columbus landed in the New World, by a selected group of Genoan chefs belonging to the rich and self-implemented Ligurian colony stationed in the Naples seaport district. It's the pasta condiment customarily made for Sunday lunch, and one of my all-time Napoli favorites. In detailing a Pasta primer a few months back, I had promised to post the recipe. Well, here it is.

Note: For its hearty and bold nature, weak stomachs and delicate appetites should abstain from consuming genovese in sight of a busy afternoon (or one that doesn't envision napping).

2 kg (4.4 lbs) of yellow onions
1 kg (2.2 lbs) of rump steak, chopped into stew size parts
250 g (1 1/4 cups) unsmoked bacon, diced
250 g (1/2 lb) pork spare ribs
1 carrot
1 celery rib
2 glasses of dry white wine
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
2 cups of Ziti (or Penne Lisce) type pasta

Tip: This recipe requires extremely long cooking time, the longer you stew, the softer the meat will be and tastier the sauce.

Dice the carrot and celery and place in the pot with the oil and the meats. Thinly slice the onion holding a chunk of bread in your mouth to avoid tears and add it to the other ingredients.

Cover and simmer over vivacious heat until the onions are translucent and all liquid evaporates. When the onion mash starts to dry, pour the first glass of wine and lower the heat to extremely low. Stir occasionally and stew for 50 minutes.

Then add the second glass of wine, salt and pepper to taste, and keep braising for 2 hours, being extra careful that the sauce doesn’t stick to the pot floor. The result should be a thick, dark velvety purée and a tender meat stew.

This heavenly pasta sauce marries boiled al dente Ziti pasta, broken into 3-inch pieces, richly dressed and generously dusted with grated Parmigiano.

You can serve the stewed meat–or what's left of it after the long cooking–as your dinner entrée, alongside a fresh arugula and shaved fresh fennel salad. But remember, the star dish in the meal is the genovese.

Serves 5/6 big eaters.


  1. smiles. i wish Chris had brought some over on the boats...smells good lola...

  2. I love a long-simmering meat sauce and this has many meats. I definitely can see why you love it and I will plan on this meal in the coming days. Genovese or not Genovese...

  3. OMG - this post is so unfair while I'm on a diet. It looks amazing!

  4. This recipe is very enticing...just for the experience of making it, I think I will try it. I must admit I have never heard of slicing onions with a piece of bread in your mouth. Does it really work?

  5. So good! This is when patience wins out.No tomatoes?

  6. Indeed, a true Neapolitan classic! My grandmother thanks you... :)

  7. Hi Lola,
    Quite a while back I re-wrote the song "Summertime" to create a new version called "Dinnertime". And that's the first thing that came to mind seeing this....

    Dinnertime, and the living is easy
    The table is set, and the wine has been poured
    Your daddy's home
    And your momma's been cooking
    So hush little baby...

  8. Uhmmm Yummy, two of my most loved ingredients: pasta and onions!!kisses

  9. Does holding bread in your mouth really help avoid onion tears! I love onions and this pasta with the cooked down onions seems like it will be delicious.

  10. Sounds ideal for the cold weather this week, a big lunch then an afternoon reading.

  11. Brian~
    it does smell wonderful! ;)

    it does take a while, but it's soo worth it...

    Oh, no–I'm sorry!! Make the sauce and use it as dip for veggies :)

  12. Patricia~
    It really does work! And if you make Genovese, please let me know how yours turns out, OK?

    Nope, just soffritto, meats and LOTS of onions.

    Prego, nonna.

  13. Owen~
    Oh wow, it works perfectl!! OK, now compose the rest of the song to incorporate recipes and dish descriptions... ;)

    Then you'll love this!

    It is delicious indeed, and the bread in mouth method is infallible.

  14. Linda~
    It's the perfect Sunday supper... I try to read after big meals, but I always end up snoring.

  15. oh, so delicioso!

    i had an old boyfriend who made this, after his italian grandmother's recipe. even though i'm now happily married to another, a mention of genovese always brings back those memories.


  16. You didn't say but do you put the ribs in bone and all? What kind of white wine do you use?

  17. I would love a plate of this right now.

  18. That dish sound so good....
    Love the meat and wine combo!
    Thank you for sharing so elegantly as always. :)

  19. Amanda~
    I love that food can be as evocative as smell or music. How sweet that he would make it for you!

  20. Virginia~
    Yes, I put the ribs, bone and all. The meat slips off the bone during cooking sometimes. Just pick out the clean bones and throw them out. I use dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. But don't open a bottle espacially, just use a splash of whatever's leftover!

    It's habit-forming comfort food!

  21. Alessandra~
    It is, it is!!

    C. Chuck~
    Thank you, maestro. Did your family make this?

  22. Pasta with Pork Sauce- it can't be beat! Mom made it often......

  23. I have been cooking Genovese for years and it is a traditional family favorite BUT I have never added all the ingredients that you have in your recipe. I serve it over perciatelli only. I will give this version a try. Very nice indeed. If you'd like to peek at my recipe please go to cucinananette.blogspot.com and look for a post called An Ode To Joe & The Onion (2/27/10)Thanks for this post. N

  24. No Lola, my family did not make this particular dish. I was so happy to find this recipe.I will be visiting my family in the new york area soon to maybe share this with them! Thank you Lola. You always fascinate me with your wonderful blend of writing/foods of Italy!!
    All the best, Chuck

  25. A delightful recipe to try ..we love pasta ♥

    But I was laughing so much when trying to read it , .. as my husband always tells me to hold a piece of bread in my mouth when chopping onions... I had honestly never heard of before and one day he did it .. I creased up with laughter :-)

  26. Roseann~
    Unbeatable!! I even make this in summer (when everyone's eating crisp salads and raiding fruit bowls...)

    I'll swing by and check your rendition out, you've made me curious! Thanks for the kudos :)

    Oh, please do make it for your family back east! Thank you for your kind words, always.

    So your husband knows the trick too! Wonderful, I'm not the only loon who does it (but it works, despite the comedy it provides)

  27. This would be great in a slow cooker simmered all day long! I can't wait to try it!

  28. I just realised what you wrote - " hold a piece of bread in your mouth"! I remember my dad (who is from Emilia Romagna) telling me that tip. I laughed and laughed!!! Now I read it here!

  29. Ciao sono Laura della redazione di Blog di Cucina.
    Sperando di fare cosa gradita ti invito a partecipare a dei corsi di VisualFood davvero interessanti!

    Clicca quì


    la Redazione

  30. Marcellina~
    Ha ha the bread trick! I love it.
    When you make this please report back moans of pleasure at the table.

    Grazie! Verrò immediatamente a vedere di che si tratta. Ciao

  31. lola, another fantastic recipe with another fantastic photo.

    i want a cookbook with just your recipes in it. just sayin'.....

    i made the pasta and butternut squash with parm. cheese. OMG!!!
    it had an almost cinnamon taste to it. it was amazing.

    a cookbook? :^)


  32. KJ, my love~
    Oh, how I wish I could magically have a book here ready to send over to you. But unfortunately my manuscript has traveled into the wrong hands, because nobody has shown interest in publishing it so far.
    But I'm optimistic and hopeful. One day soon, you'll be getting a package in the mail, and it will be the first copy, signed and smelling of sweet baked foods from my kitchen.

    Hugs and xx

  33. I was just sitting here wondering what to cook this weekend and now I know-perfetto! Thank you Elena.

  34. Mmmmmm!!!!! Time consuming, but worth it!

  35. Janie~
    Wonderful! Let me know how everyone enjoyed your weekend genovese!!

    Oh, so-o-o worth it! Considering how it's a complete meal.

    Have a great weekend, tutti!

  36. the wrong hands indeed. don't give up. never never.

    i won't either


  37. Looks and sounds delightfully delicious! I'm hungry now. *sigh* ;-)


  38. Paz~
    Mission accomplished! Run to the kitchen and make some now. ;)

  39. There is nothing - NOTHING - I enjoy more for a good simple hearty meal than a pasta with a rich meat gravy, such as this. I want to eat your photos.

  40. Jim~
    I hope you understand comments like these make my heart sing. Thank you.
    And yes, I agree, there is very little else that compares to the satisfaction derived from a meal like one revolving around meat ragù.

    I smiled thinking of you today. My 5 year old was watching one of his favorite Pixar films, Monsters, Inc. in which the hero is one gigantic and fuzzy James P. Sullivan.

  41. I opted against the pasta alla genovese in napoli last week, now i regret my decision...

    i just discovered your beautiful blog.. its awesome. Living in Roma is what inspired me to start a blog.. i just got back two days ago from a trip


  42. Croosadabilia~
    thank you for your comment. I'm so sorry you didn't have Genovese in its hometown. Fortunately Napoli is only a 2-hr train ride away. When I get particularly homesick for its typical foods, I just hop on a Eurostar, have lunch in my favorite hangouts, and make the 3pm train back home...