Pasta alla Genovese is a delicious slow cooked beef and onion Genovese sauce from Naples that is tossed with pasta before serving. This style of Genovese sauce and beef is so delicious and pure comfort food. Serve this as a casual meal with family or use it to entertain with. This pasta alla Genovese recipe is the Italian version of comfort food and one that everyone will love.
Table of contents
History of Pasta alla Genovese
Pasta Genovese is one of my favorite Italian recipes. It is a dish from Napoli (Naples) not Genoa, Italy despite its name.
There are many stories as to why this dish from Naples is called Genovese but no clear one that everyone can agree on. You can find this rustic Italian dish all through Naples, Italy and it has become a staple recipe for Southern Italians.
Much like Naple's ragù alla napoletana, pasta alla genovese is probably the most well-known of all the Neapolitan pasta sauces in Naples.
No matter where it is from, pasta Genovese is a really simple and delicious beef ragu that anyone can make.
About this Neapolitan Pasta alla Genovese
Though it may seem by looking at the picture that this Genovese sauce has tomatoes in it, it actually does not.
This Italian dish consists of slow-cooked beef with onions and aromatics which produces the most delicious Genovese sauce. This Genovese sauce is then mixed in with pasta while the tender and delicious slow-cooked beef is served on the side for an amazing Italian meal.
In addition to the onions in the Genovese sauce, white wine, carrots, pancetta and thyme are added to round out the flavors of the onions and to give it a wonderful depth of flavor.
The onions which are sliced very thin will break down (with a few that don't which add some texture) into the sauce. In addition to the onions, the beef rendering down and white wine add to the richness.
The onions in the Genovese sauce turn a deep golden color when cooking.
The final result is the most amazing sauce that is added to a sturdy pasta like rigatoni. The tender and succulent beef roast is served alongside the pasta as a second course.
It is really delicious and perfect for any occasion. You really need to try this dish.
Making this Pasta Genovese recipe is very easy and so are the ingredients. You just need to be home when making this since the first part of the recipe has you turn the meat after an hour.
The rest is just letting it simmer on your stove top in a heavy-bottom Dutch oven or pot.
Pasta alla Genovese Ingredients
- Beef Chuck roast (boneless). I prefer using a whole chick roast that slowly cooks in one piece in the pot. This way I can plate the entire slow-cooked roast and serve it as one course and the pasta as a second course.
- Onions (lots of them). The onions are what make the Genovese sauce what it is. You will be cooking down lots on onions but it will actually end up adding a sweet note to the sauce.
- Celery. You do not need a lot. Just 1 celery spear will work.
- Pancetta. If you cannot find pancetta, you can use smoked bacon that you dice up.
- White wine. The white wine is the acid that balances out all of the flavors.
- Rigatoni pasta (or a similar sturdy wide shaped pasta).You can also use ziti for this recipe.
- Fresh thyme
- Olive oil.
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Fresh good quality Parmesan for serving
If you saw the lots of onions part of the ingredients list, it is correct. There are lots of them in this pasta Genovese recipe.
To be exact it is around 3 pounds of onions. That is about 4-5 large yellow onions.
It may seem a bit scary or that it is too much, but believe me, it all works. There is so much flavor in this Genovese sauce.
You will add some of the Genovese sauce over the roast before serving as well.
How to make Pasta alla Genovese
Making this Italian beef and onion roast is so simple. Here is what it looks like (full recipe below):
- Prep and Sear Beef: The first thing you are going to do is prepare all of your ingredients and sear your meat over medium-high heat. Searing of the meat will add richness to the Genovese sauce.
Make sure you do not skip this step! Searing the meat really helps to seal in the flavors of the meat.
It also leaves behind some nice browning in the bottom of the pot which will be scraped down later. This is another layer of flavor in the Genovese sauce!
- Add Veggies and Aromatics: The next steps are going to be adding in all that flavor that is in the Genovese sauce; the pancetta, onions, thyme, and carrots. You want to make sure you saute them well so they release all of their juices and flavor.
This is going to blend into the sauce that is made from the meat juices.
- Mix it all together and slow cook: Add the meat to the pot and cover it with a lid.
You will bring your ingredients in your heavy bottom pot to a light simmer so it can start cooking and doing its thing. Most of the time that it takes to make this delicious Italian roast is hands off time. You will pop in from time to time to give it a nice stir as well.
- Stir: Let it all simmer together for about an hour. After that, you flip the meat over and give it another couple hours for the meat to become tender and the onions to develop into a sauce.
The white wine will be added towards the end to round it all out. This is when all those layers of flavor in this pasta alla Genovese recipe will really come together.
The searing of the beef and the cooking down of the aromatics and pancetta earlier will really blend into the wine here. All of that flavor was still in the pot.
It is so good and so simple!
I really love how easy this pasta alla Genovese is to make. I will serve it on holidays, when I am entertaining and just for family. I usually make our classic pizzelle recipe to add to the meal which is another classic Italian recipe.
You only need to do a couple things to make this dish and it is so beautiful.
My favorite thing about this pasta all Genovese recipe is that it makes a pasta and a roast. So you have a first and second course with minimal effort and who would not love a beef and onion ragu.
Making pasta Genovese in the slow cooker
You can make this pasta alla Genovese recipe in the slow cooker if you want by following all of the steps up to the point of simmering the roast. From there you just add your ingredients to a slow cooker and turn on low for 6-7 hours or until the meat is tender.
It actually will cook in just a few hours simmering on the stove top which I find more convenient. If you are looking for more easy recipes in the slow cooker, you may like my brisket recipe , pot roast sandwiches, Mexican Barbacoa, Cuban ropa vieja, or my slow cooker beef bourguignon.
Preparing this ahead of time
You can prepare this pasta alla Genovese recipe ahead of time by prepping your veggies (onions and carrots) and storing them in a sealed container until ready to cook. You can also tie your meat ahead of time which all of these steps will save you most of the prepping time when you are ready to start cooking it.
Re-heating this beef and onion ragu
To reheat the meat, just pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees. Place your meat and sauce in aluminum foil and seal it well so it does not leak.
Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the sauce is nice and hot and the meat is warmed through.
I do not recommend re-heating the pasta. It will be better to make a fresh batch of pasta and add the warmed sauce to it. Reserve a little of the pasta water in case the pasta and sauce are too dry.
Some people like to add a little Parmesan cheese to this Genovese sauce. We love serving this pasta alla Genovese as is, with some freshly grated Italian cheese or with a side of cheesy polenta. Here are some more of our favorite things to pair with this pasta alla Genovese recipe:
More Delicious Comfort Food Recipes
- The Best Baked Ham with Glaze
- Dutch Oven Beef Stew
- Chicken with Tarragon
- Pork Bolognese
- Pork Chops In Tomato Sauce
- French Beef Stew
- Juicy Boneless Pork Chops
- Pan Fried Gnocchi with Kale and Parmesan Cream
- Creamy Sausage Tortellini Soup
- Roast Boneless Prime Rib
Pasta alla Genovese (Italian beef and onion ragu)
Tried the Recipe? We Would Love To Hear From You In The Comments Below!
- 2 lbs Boneless Beef Chuck roast
- 3 lbs Yellow Spanish onions sliced very thin
- 1 lb Rigatoni or any other wide sturdy pasta
- 1 cup good white wine I like a nice Italian white wine for this like pinot grigio
- 3 carrots cleaned and diced small
- 1 celery spear finely diced
- 4 ounces cubed pancetta you can find this in your deli
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Grab all of your ingredients and have them ready.
- Slice your onions as thin as possible and set aside.
- Dice your carrots and set aside.
- Tie your beef with kitchen twine. This helps hold the meat together during cooking. If you do not have twine that is ok.
- Pre-heat a heavy bottom dutch oven or pot on medium high heat.
- Add your salt and pepper to your beef roast.
- Add your olive oil and red pepper flakes to the pot and cook for 1 minute.
- Add your beef roast to the pot and sear all sides of the beef.
- Once the beef is seared on all sides, remove from the pot and place on a plate.
- Now reduce heat to medium and add your pancetta and diced carrots to your pot still over medium heat and cook until the pancetta is crispy.
- Add your sprigs of thyme to the pot and your beef roast.
- Add your sliced onions over top of the beef roast and cover and let simmer for about 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, flip the beef roast over and place the lid back on your pot and let simmer for 2 more hours.
- After a total of 3 hours, check your beef roast and make sure it is fork tender. If it is, remove the roast from the oven and place on a plate and cover with aluminum foil.
- Now add your wine to the pot and simmer with the lid off for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, place the lid back on your pot and continue simmering over low.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add a large handful of salt to the pot.
- Now add your pasta and cook according to the manufacturers instructions for al dente.
- Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain pasta when ready.
- Pour drained pasta back into the pot.
Assembling the Pasta Genovese
- Add ¼ of your reserved pasta water to your Genovese sauce and mix well.
- If Genovese sauce looks to thick you can add a little more pasta water as needed.
- Scoop a few ladles of your Genovese sauce over your pasta and mix it in.
- Now add the remaining Genovese sauce over top of your beef roast.
- Serve them together at the table with copious amounts of fresh Parmesan.
Nutrition Values are estimates only.See full nutrition disclaimer here