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A rich and beefy ragù in which the onions are the star

Pasta alla Genovese

Appears in March-April 2021

3¾ hours 40 minutes active

Pasta alla Genovese

Don’t be fooled by the name of this dish. This is not pasta with Genovese basil pesto, nor is it from Genoa. Rather, the sauce is an onion-based ragù and a classic in the Neapolitan culinary repertoire. (How the sauce acquired its name is unknown, but we were told in Naples that some believe it comes from the Genovese sailors who visited Naples for trade. The theory goes that either they made this dish while in town or—more likely—locals made it for them.) Some versions of pasta alla genovese are meat-free, others include a small amount of beef or veal as a flavoring, but never as a key ingredient. Taking a cue from A Cucina Ra Casa Mia in Naples, we use boneless beef short ribs in ours. We combine beef, cut into chunks, with carrots, celery and an abundance of onions in a Dutch oven and put the pot into the oven, where the heat is slow and steady, until the meat is tender enough to fall apart when prodded with a fork. Slicing 3 pounds of onions by hand is a good opportunity to hone your knife skills, but if you prefer, they can be sliced on a mandoline. The ragù can be made up to three days ahead, then reheated gently before tossing with just-cooked pasta.

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