Genovese Pasta Recipe

This Genovese Pasta Recipe Is So Delicious And Easy To Make

If you are looking for a delicious sauce to make on the weekend, this Genovese pasta recipe is a surprising addition to your pasta or just poured over bread.

Genovese Pasta Recipe - Bite Shot

What we have here is the classic version of the Genovese, with no variations, but obviously since it is such a historical and family dish it may undergo some local variations. The secret to making this recipe with onions perfectly is slowness, don’t rush, the sauce must gradually reduce and become almost creamy. Making the Genovese recipe is not difficult, it is certainly a long process that requires a little patience but does not have any complicated steps.

The History Of Pasta Alla Genovese

This is a recipe from the Campania region that is very widespread and enjoyed by many. Even though it bears the name Genovese (Genoese) despite being mostly unknown in the Ligurian capital.

Genovese Pasta is an ancient recipe and its origins aren’t well known. One theory is that it was prepared at the port in Naples for the sailors who shuttled between Naples and Genoa. This may or may not be true, but it is good enough for me. 

Genovese Pasta Recipe - Meats

Kitchen Tools And Cookware

We are proud to be an Amazon Affiliate, so If you are looking for some amazing products, please click on the links below as we have compiled a list of some of our favorite equipment. As an Amazon Associate, we at Saturdays In Rome earn commissions from qualifying purchases, but there are no added costs for you. For this recipe, and others, check out some of our recommended cookware and kitchen tools.

Pasta MakerGnocchi BoardPasta BoardRavioli Maker
Ravioli Press/StamperRicerBialetti Pasta PotBamboo Cutting Board Set of 3
Silpat Baking MatSantoku KnifeMeasuring Cups and SpoonsStainless Mixing Bowls
Dutch OvenMesh StrainersStainless ColanderStainless Steel Fry Pan

Santoku Knife

The Santoku style knife is my favorite when I’m cooking and Victorinox makes a great one!

Genovese Pasta Recipe Recommendations

  • This Is Not Cake – There is also a cake called Torta Pasta Genovese that you should be aware of because although the cake looks delicious, it is very unrelated to this sauce and probably won’t taste good on pasta.
  • Beef Cuts – Finding the necessary beef cuts here in Rome is easy. My local butcher always has what I need (even a cow tail) and when I show him the recipe, it knows what I need. However, it is tricky to translate the cuts between Italian (or Neapolitan in this case) and an American cut of beef. These are the best translations I would find:
    • Corazza di manzo is Beef Chuck
    • Muscolo di manzo is Beef Shoulder
    • Copertina di manzo is Beef Brisket
    • Muscolo di maiale is Pork Shoulder/Boston Butt
  • Beef Choices – If you are unable to find the correct cuts, you think my translation is wrong, or it is too complicated, you can substitute the four mentioned above with the same quantity (by weight) of Beef Chuck.
  • Juniper Berries – These are a popular ingredient here in Italy, but they proved to be difficult to find here in Rome so I would imagine even more difficult in the US. Don’t worry if you can find them, but if you can, you might decide to add a sprig of the berries to this sauce for a more traditional taste.
  • Fresh Bay Leaf vs Dried – I’ve always been suspicious of bay leaves in the US because I wasn’t able to taste what they added to a dish. Here in Rome, I was surprised to learn: yes, the laurel leaf and the bay leaf are the same thing. Fresh laurel does have a noticeable flavor and should be added, but dried bay leaf can remain untouched in the back of my spice drawer. 
  • Pasta Choices – My preference is a shorter pasta, like a rigatoni or a ziti. I have seen recipes that suggest using a long ziti, but that seems unmanageable to me. Save the long ziti for a delicious baked macaroni and stick with the short ones here.
Genovese Pasta Recipe - Onions

Frequently Asked Questions About Genovese Sauce

What Is Genovese Sauce Made Of?

This is a pretty unusual sauce, at least to me, because there are no tomatoes involved at all. This is a meat sauce that includes both white wine and onions to provide a sweet flavor that is a great addition to a short pasta. I did see one chef use a long ziti, but that seemed a bit unwieldy to me, so I would recommend staying with a short pasta.

What Is The Difference Between Bolognese And Genovese Pasta?

A traditional bolognese ragù isn’t slow cooked for hours, it contains dairy and a touch of tomato paste, so the flavors are entirely different. The sweetness of the Genovese sauce supplied by the yellow onions are quite different from the flavors of a bolognese sauce. They are both amazing, but different.

Genovese Pasta Recipe - Lazio White Wine

What Is The Difference Between Neapolitan And Genovese Ragù?

There are a few similarities between a Neapolitan and Genovese sauce, like: they can cook all day long and they include a lot of meat, but the differences are important. Neapolitan Ragù is a red sauce with tomatoes being the dominant flavor and it uses red wine. Genovese has no tomatoes, the dominant flavor is supplied by the onions and it includes white wine. There is also more pork in the Neapolitan sauce and more beef in the Genovese sauce. Both are great, and should be tried on different weekends, but they are certainly different.

Does Ragu Have Onions?

It is common to have onions in a ragù, but the word actually refers to a meat sauce, so onions wouldn’t be the dominant ingredient as they are in this Genovese sauce. Both Bolognese and Neapolitan ragù have onions, but they are definitely meat sauces and the onions are a complimentary part of the soffritto.

If you would like a free copy of this recipe in PDF format, please sign up for access to our Recipe Box which contains a growing list of amazing Italian recipes discussed on this blog, including this delicious recipe.

Colander – 5 Qt.

OXO makes some great products that really take the home cook into account and this colander is no exception.

Genovese Pasta Recipe

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook: 180 mins
  • Servings: 6


  • 12 ounces (320g) short tube pasta, like Rigatoni or Ziti
  • 3 lbs. (1.2 kg) Yellow Onions
  • 8 ounces (200 g) Beef Chuck (Corazza di manzo)
  • 6 ounces (160 g) Beef Shoulder (Muscolo di manzo)
  • 5 ounces (150 g) Beef Brisket (Copertina di manzo)
  • 4 ounces (120 g) Pork Shoulder/Boston Butt (Muscolo di maiale)
  • 3 ounces (80 g) Prosciutto Ham Shank
  • 6 fl. ounces (200 ml) White wine
  • 1 rib of Celery
  • 1 large Carrot
  • Bay (Laurel) 1 leaf
  • 4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Genovese Pasta Recipe - Cubed Meat

Cooking Instructions

  1. Peel the onions and slice them thinly.
  2. Peel and finely chop the carrots.
  3. Chop the celery and keep the set aside.
  4. Clean the meat of any excess fat and cut it into cubes.
  5. Pour olive oil into a fairly large pan (like a dutch oven) over medium heat and add the onions, the celery and the carrots. Sauté the vegetables until soft, then add the meat.
  6. Add the bay leaf and a pinch of salt, mix and leave to flavor for a few minutes. Then lower the heat to the lowest setting, cover with the lid and cook for about 3 hours. 
  7. You probably won’t need to add water or broth because the onions will release the necessary liquid so that the bottom does not dry out. However, from time to time you should check and make sure it doesn’t burn. After 3 hours, remove the bay leaf.
  8. Raise the heat and add half of the wine. Stir and continue to cook without the lid until the wine evaporates, then add the remaining wine and stir until the wine is gone.
  9. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
  10. Drain the pasta and mix well to mix it with the sauce.
  11. You can serve your Genoese pasta topped with more pepper or grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, if you would like.

Serving Suggestions For Genovese Pasta

This is a very durable sauce because it can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days in an airtight container. If you prefer you can freeze it, but once you taste it, it probably won’t last too long.

I had more sauce ready to eat than pasta, so I tried spreading some of the thick sauce on a nice fresh baguette and I was glad I did. Unlike a typical tomato sauce, this is so thick that eating it on bread isn’t messy but it is a delicious snack or meal.

Some versions of pasta alla genovese include the addition of a few cherry tomatoes or a little tomato paste. In others, water is added, which will make the onions creamier. I recommend trying this straightforward recipe as is before trying some alterations.

Genovese Pasta Recipe - Served

Previous Italian Recipes That Might Interest You

If you enjoyed this delicious Genovese Pasta Recipe, here are some of other favorite recipes that you might want to try:

Similar Posts