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  • Writer's pictureGiu

Pasta alla Genovese in Napoli: The Story of Tradition

Pasta alla Genovese is a dish that whispers the tales of Neapolitan cuisine and culture, a testament to the rich culinary traditions that Naples, Italy, has nurtured over centuries. Although its name might suggest a connection to Genoa, the pasta has deep roots in the heart of Naples, where it has long been a Sunday lunch staple, bringing families together with its robust flavors and homely comfort.

The Origins of Pasta alla Genovese

The story of Pasta alla Genovese began in the alleys of Napoli during the Renaissance period. While it might sound misleading, there isn’t actually a direct link to Genoa. Some say that the recipe was brought to Napoli by Genovese cooks, while others argue it was a creation of the Neapolitan people inspired by the ingredients that Genovese merchants brought to their port.

The dish evolved in the hands of skilled Neapolitan chefs, who turned simple ingredients into a sumptuous feast. Pasta alla Genovese is not a quick-fix meal—its preparation is somewhat of a labor of love, requiring patience and attention to detail, which is a hallmark of many traditional Italian recipes.

The Cultural Significance

In Napoli, sitting down to a plate of Pasta alla Genovese is more than just eating; it's an event. Over time, it has become more than just a dish—it's a part of Neapolitan identity. The dish is a favorite for Sunday family gatherings, festivities, and is particularly savored during the cooler months, given its rich and warming nature.

The Traditional Recipe: Pasta alla Genovese


- 500g of pasta (traditionally, ziti or rigatoni)

- 1kg of beef (chunk or brisket works well)

- 1.5kg of onions, thinly sliced

- 1 carrot, finely chopped

- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped

- 50g of pancetta, diced

- 60ml of white wine

- Olive oil

- Salt and pepper to taste

- Parmesan cheese, grated (for serving)


1. Prep the Meat: Begin by seasoning the beef with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat some olive oil, brown the beef on all sides and then set it aside.

2. Sauté the Base: In the same pot, add the pancetta and sauté until it starts to release its fat. Add the carrot and celery, and cook them gently until they start to soften.

3. Cook Onions: The most crucial step is the onions. Add the sliced onions to the pot and cook them on a low heat. This can take up to 2-3 hours. The onions should caramelize into a rich, golden mass, presenting the sweet backbone of the sauce.

4. Simmer: Once the onions are caramelized, add the beef back to the pot along with the white wine. Let the wine evaporate, then lower the heat and let the meat and onions simmer gently for about 2-3 more hours. The meat should be tender enough to tear apart easily.

5. Prepare the Pasta: While the sauce is nearing completion, cook your pasta in salted boiling water until it is al dente.

6. Combine and Serve: Remove the beef from the sauce, shred it, and return it to the pot. Toss the cooked pasta into the sauce until every piece is evenly coated. Serve with a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Finishing Touches

True to the Italian spirit, the best way to enjoy Pasta alla Genovese is with good company and a glass of local wine. This is a dish that invites you to slow down, savor every bite, and indulge in the flavors passed down through generations. It is these recipes that not only fill the stomach but also the heart, continuing to enrich Neapolitan life, bite by beautiful bite.


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