Pasta Genovese

Pasta with “Genovese” sauce (La Genovese)

This is a great Neapolitan dish which poses two great questions. Why is it completely unknown outside Naples, and why is it never found in Genova ? It would seem that the first version was introduced to Naples by merchants from Genoa in the sixteenth century, and it spread rapidly since several local trattorias at that time had cooks from Liguria. The dish appealed to the Neapolitan love of fine flavors and by the eighteenth century the dish had evolved, with the addition of prosciutto and a large quantity of onions. It became a classic, almost rivaling the well-loved ragù, but in Genova it was forgotten. Today a lighter version, known as ‘finto genovese’ exists to suit vegetarians..

Like Neapolitan ragù this sauce needs to be cooked for hours over a very slow heat, and the bottom of the pan needs to be scraped at regular intervals with a wooden spoon, to avoid sticking. It requires lots of patience to “tirare” — literally, to draw out –the sauce, but the end result is well worth the patience it takes. It reminds me of French onion soup.

In the past the sauce was used to dress the pasta, and the meat was served at another meal. Today some meat is crumbled over the sauce or sliced by the side.

1 k lean pork or beef, tied to keep its shape

500g ziti, paccheri or your favourite pasta

1 k onions, finely sliced

2cm piece of celery, finely chopped

2cm piece of carrot, finely chopped

100 g prosciutto or bacon, with rind if possible, finely chopped

1 cup dry white wine

2 sprigs marjoram

salt and black pepper

50 g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

4 T extra virgin olive oil

Choose a pan with a lid, just wide enough to hold the piece of meat. Heat the oil and gently brown the meat before adding the celery, carrot, marjoram and onions. The onions should cover the meat completely. Add a cup of water, the prosciutto or bacon and the seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat. Turn the meat over from time to time, and when the onions begin to soften turn down the heat to low, and start adding the wine, a little at a time, keeping the pan covered. Repeat the procedure until the onions are golden brown and almost disintegrated. Depending on the cut of meat it will probably take about 2 hours , until the meat is so tender it can almost be cut with a spoon. Add about 1 cup of water, stir well and remove from the heat. This part of the recipe can be prepared a day in advance if you wish. The meat is easier to cut into thick slices when it is cool. When ready to eat, remove the meat and crumble some small pieces into the sauce. Reheat the sauce gently while cooking the pasta in boiling salted water. Drain the pasta, toss in the Parmesan cheese and dress with the genovese sauce. You can serve the sliced meat at the same time, or it can be saved for another meal.



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