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Neapolitan Genovese Pasta Sauce

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The second most distinguished member of the holy trinity of Neapolitan pasta sauces is based on sausage leftovers and a lot of work.

On paper this is the best pasta sauce in the world. Number 2 in the Neapolitan cuisine pantheon, made with the very best prosciutto, salami and vegetables, cooked for 3 hours, it came into this world with silver spoon in the pan. And yet, what a disappointment. I'll give it a final chance and order it in Naples some day, but this is not a recipe you'll see me doing again. However, the preparation was rather dramatic. Have a look:

To prepare the genovese, take about 200gram of bacon, salami, prosciutto and dry sausage, a couple carrots, herbs and 1.5kg onions.

Reduce the meat to a paste, here with my brand-new, yet century-old, Porkert meat grinder bought at Dehillerin in Paris.

Proceed with the onions, herbs and carrots using the same meat grinder.

Add a drop of tomato concentrate and mix well.

Cook for about an hour over low heat with a beef roast on top to add flavor.

When the vegetables are cooked, increase the heat to high and let the sauce brown, moving all the time. I really don't understand why you don't start with this step but my source on Neapolitan cuisine is adamant this comes afterwards.

Here is what it looks like after this step.


Add a glass of dry white wine gradually, letting it evaporate before adding more. Then add a cup of water and cook for a further 30 minutes.

If you want a more enthusiastic portrayal of this sauce by a Neapolitan who writes in English, have a look at this post on Il Forno.



  • #1
  • Comment by DENNIS
  • #2
  • Comment by Rachel hong
I love your website! I can't wait to try the paella with Squid ink.Thank you for a wonderful online gastronomic experience.
  • #3
  • Answered by fx
Rachel thanks for your appreciation! If you find the squid ink the arroz negro is a breeze and really unique and memorable. Good luck!
  • #4
  • Comment by Paul
Re your recipe for Genovese sauce - you said you couldn't understand why the Genovese sauce was so highly rated - and so complicated to prepare.  I think your recipe does look a little complicated - I realise you have had it given to you by an authentic source, but, what I can say to you, was, I was recently on holiday on the Amalfi coast and had pasta alla Genovese for the first time - and it was truly wonderful, so delicious and rich.  The pasta was tubes, scattered with strips of beef, and in a delightful rich, caramelised onion type of sauce.  It was heavenly.  I think the secret is in caramelising the onions and cooking them for a long time with the meat to produce the rich flavours.  I agree with you when you say you can't understand the steps and processes in the recipe that you suggest - I think it can be done a different way.  My partner is just about to try to cook it for the first time using a different recipe, so let's hope it turns out ok!

I have really enjoyed looking at your website today, the recipes look utterly mouth-watering (my favourite cooking is Italian). I love your style and approach.  It is a true labour of love.  I'll be back to peruse your recipes another time, that's for sure!

Good luck with your endeavours, and thank you for so generously sharing them on your blog.

Best regards,

  • #5
  • Answered by fx
Ciao Paul, thanks for visiting and for giving me some hope with Genovese, it sure looks like I have missed something despite using a reputable book. I'll try to give it another chance but please do let me know how your partner's Genovese turns out and what recipe he used!
  • #6
  • Comment by Paul
Dear Francois,

I've just visited your site to read the fabulous article on the Ramadan kebabs, the whole experience sounds wonderful.  I have a Turkish friend who is a wonderful cook, I always love going to her house, and I hope to visit Istanbul with her one day so that we can have some gastronomic fun!

Daniel, my partner, made the Genovese sauce and it was very good.  He made it more or less after the 'taste' of the dish we had in Amalfi - he is very good at seasoning.  We also read one recipe that advised that the cooking of the dish should take at least 9 hours.   Basically, he took two frying steaks and a large quantity of onions.  He seasoned and floured the steaks and  briefly fried them in a pan and took them out,  and started frying the sliced onions separately.  Then he put onions, seasoned with green and some black peppercorns, in a lidded copper pan, in the oven, with the steaks and just covered in white wine and a little water.  He turned the oven to a low heat and we went out for 7 hours.  When we came back, the contents of the pot were a rich, oniony sauce, and the meat was so tender we could shred it easily and mix into hot bowls of tagliatelle.  YUM!  

Slightly improvised and I'm sure there are variations, but our Genovese was rich and mellow, sweet and meaty, just as the one was we had in Amalfi.

Hope you are well -

Best regards,

  • #7
  • Answered by fx
Paul, this sounds like a very successful genovese, I have to try this dish another time and see how we fare. Thanks for dropping in!
  • #8
  • Comment by Frances Di Lauro
Beautiful photos and how clever to use the mincer to finely grind the vegetables! I was about to try the recipe until I went back and read your comment about being disappointed with the dish. My mother often cooked the dish she called Genovese and I assumed was from Genoa. But since we're from Naples, I now understand why it was one of my parents' favourite dishes.

My mother did not ever used salami or prociutto. These might be a modification in some parts of Campagnia (you know how much diversity there is in dialect, cuisine etc within a range of a couple of kms in Italy).

Anyway The rest was the same as in your recipe: all the vegetables, white wine and sometimes with a tied nut of veal which would be cut up and served as a second course. I think if you omit the prociutto and salami, you will fine a delicate, delicious and quite simple dish.

  • #9
  • Comment by Stefano
Guys, this comes directly from downtown Naples: I Never heard anybody putting prosciutto in Genovese. My girfriend almost haad an heart attack (:-))) her grandmother, that thought her traaditional cooking, "si sta rivoltando nella tomba" :-))).
Enjoy your meals....
  • FX's answer→ Thank you for your most kind message!
    If I understand correctly, you say that my using prosciutto in a recipe for Neapolitan Genovese is ridiculous, because your girlfriend's mother, who is from Naples, Italy, has never done it and does not know anybody who uses it.

    Well, the first book I opened is Jeanne Caròla Francesconi "La Cucina Napoletana", first published in 1965. With over 700 pages and no pictures, it is considered the most authoritative Italian cookbook about traditional Neapolitan cooking.  Recipe #154 for Maccheroni alla Genovese lists "50gr prosciutto crudo" in the ingredients. In recipe #444 for Carne alla genovese, the introduction says (I have to assume you read Italian) "Ancora oggi, in qualche salumeria, si vende un misto di avanzi di salumi e specialmente di prosciutto, che si chiama "casseruola" e dà un gusto inconfondibile alla salsa.

    Now, maybe your girlfriend's grandma knows more about traditional Neapolitan cooking than Mrs Francesconi did. Maybe also, the recipe of one grandma is not the best source for a canonical, traditional recipe, because every family tweaks it its way.

    It reminds me when I once used the word "immodest" in some shop in the USA. The guy gave me a funny look, then said: "immodest", that's not a word. I haven't never heard it in my whole life, so it can't be a word.

  • #11
  • Comment by Karen Fiore
This is not the Genovoe sauce I was taught to make...my Italian mother-in-law, made this sauce, as such
Remember Italians do not measure…it is all eyeballed..that is how I learned.


Olive oil…who know how much..a lot..

You need either a rump roast ,with fat around it….

I entire bottle of Fiori’s sweet Marsala wind..do not use Pastene

2 cans of cambell’s double strength beef broth..
you will not find it by the soups but by the broths.

A handful of flat parsley (not the curly kind never….)

At least 10 sweet onions chopped fine

About 5 or 6 cloves of garlic through a press

Salt and pepper to taste.

I cup of water and I mean a large drinking cup

Brown roast on all side in Olive oil

Chop onions in food processor (years ago I did them by hand) till fine, but not watery….

After the roast is brown, remove add more olive oil, and then slowly sauté the  onions until soft and caramel color…add garlic (low heat) and sauté…(the onions take time and never remove any from the pot, push them to the sides and add new onions to the middle)

When onions are done add garlic and keep an eye on it…let them just mix, add parsley

Then add the entire bottle of Marsala, two cans of beef broth ( do not substitute from double strength campbel’s although I thing they just call it beef broth, near all the broths)

Turn roast ever half hour for two hours then let set….

Only us perchetelli pasta…only or else,

Try this one...it is out of this world.
  • FX's answer→ Karen, thank you for your elaborate and highly interesting recipe, I hope I can try it soon!

  • #13
  • Comment by Jennifer
My Neapolitan mother-in-law Fulvia makes a "finta Genovese" that is out of this world. I like meat, but I haven't messed with her vegetarian recipe since I can't imagine it could be any better. She adds butter, olive oil and rehydrated porcini mushrooms after the onions and odori have cooked off all their water, then continues to cook, adding wine, until the sauce is deep brown. The porcini add a wonderfully rich, meaty taste with no actual meat necessary. I have to laugh at people saying that variations make Italians turn in their graves ... someone try to tell Fulvia she's not a real napolitana!
  • #14
  • Comment by Richard Maniscalco
Wonderful blog on an often misunderstood sauce often confused with the Pesto sauce originating in Genova. I've been eating this wonderful conglomeration of onions and braised beef for years. A restaurant on Long Island (Farmingdale) called Ubaldo's will make the sauce on special request one day before, as he did last night for a group of my friends who can nver get enough of it. Although he is from Calabria, he firmly attests that its origin is Naples. I can verify that fact, as some years ago I spent a day at the Excelsior Hotel in Naples and asked the concierge for a good local restaurant within walking distance. Accross the street, in the Marina was a place that served the Genovese sauce with papadelle...we had it for lunch and dinner. His secret was port wine instead of marsala added to the long simmering process  with the onions.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks for this endorsement!

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