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A rich and beefy ragù in which the onions are the star
Milk Street Bowtie Pasta alla Genovese

Pasta alla Genovese

Appears in March-April 2021

3¾ hours 40 minutes active

Pasta alla Genovese

Free

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.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
3-4 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium celery stalks, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
3 pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced
1½ pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 inch piece Parmesan rind (optional), plus 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound rigatoni pasta
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Ingredients
  • 2

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

  • 3-4

    ounces pancetta, chopped

  • 2

    medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2

    medium celery stalks, chopped

  • 1

    cup dry white wine

  • 3

    pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced

  • pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks

  • ¾
  • 2

    inch piece Parmesan rind (optional), plus 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup)

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 1

    pound rigatoni pasta

  • ½

    cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions
  1. 01
    Heat the oven to 325°F with the rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by about half, about 3 minutes. Add the onions, beef, pepper flakes, Parmesan rind (if using), ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper, then stir to combine. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 1½ hours.
  2. 02
    Remove the pot from the oven and stir. Return to the oven, uncovered, and cook until stewy and the meat falls apart when pressed with a fork, about another 1½ hours. Tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Remove and discard the Parmesan rind (if used). Cover and set aside while you cook the pasta.
  3. 03
    In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  4. 04
    Add the pasta to the Dutch oven and toss to combine with the sauce, adding about ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Add the parsley and half the grated Parmesan, then toss again; add more reserved water as needed so the sauce coats the pasta. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Serve with the remaining Parmesan.
Tip: Don’t be concerned that there’s so little liquid in the pot after adding the onions and beef. In the covered pot warmed by the oven heat, the vegetables and meat release moisture that becomes the braising liquid. For the second half of cooking, don’t forget to uncover the pot. This allows some of that liquid to evaporate for a richer, more concentrated flavor and consistency.
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Pasta alla Genovese

Get Ready to Cook

6-8

Servings

3¾ hours

40 minutes active

Tip

Don’t be concerned that there’s so little liquid in the pot after adding the onions and beef. In the covered pot warmed by the oven heat, the vegetables and meat release moisture that becomes the braising liquid. For the second half of cooking, don’t forget to uncover the pot. This allows some of that liquid to evaporate for a richer, more concentrated flavor and consistency.

Ingredients
  • 2

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

  • 3-4

    ounces pancetta, chopped

  • 2

    medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2

    medium celery stalks, chopped

  • 1

    cup dry white wine

  • 3

    pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced

  • pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks

  • ¾
  • 2

    inch piece Parmesan rind (optional), plus 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup)

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 1

    pound rigatoni pasta

  • ½

    cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Step 1 of 4

Combine Ingredients In Dutch Oven

2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-4
ounces pancetta, chopped
2
medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2
medium celery stalks, chopped
1
cup dry white wine
3
pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced
pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
¾
teaspoon red pepper flakes
2
inch piece Parmesan rind
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 325°F with the rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.


Add the carrots and celery, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by about half, about 3 minutes.


Add the onions, beef, pepper flakes, Parmesan rind (if using), ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper, then stir to combine. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook for 1½ hours.

Step 2 of 4

Remove Rind and Skim Fat

Remove the pot from the oven and stir. Return to the oven, uncovered, and cook until stewy and the meat falls apart when pressed with a fork, about another 1½ hours.


Tilt the pot to pool the cooking liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Remove and discard the Parmesan rind (if used). Cover and set aside while you cook the pasta.

Step 3 of 4

Cook Pasta

1
pound rigatoni pasta
Kosher salt

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Step 4 of 4

Finish and Serve

½
cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2
ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Add the pasta to the Dutch oven and toss to combine with the sauce, adding about ½ cup of reserved pasta water.


Add the parsley and half the grated Parmesan, then toss again; add more reserved water as needed so the sauce coats the pasta. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Serve with the remaining Parmesan.

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Pasta alla Genovese

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