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The pasta in the Genoese style in Naples


Pasta in the Genoese style

The sauces produced by the Garofalo pasta factory

Some months ago the pasta factory of Gragnano launched some ready sauces which are the fundamental elements of the Neapolitan cuisine like the mythical “ragł”, pasta with peas, pasta with potatoes and the one in the Genoese style. I was thinking that this recipe, even if it is the most popular in the city and in some areas of Campania, is completely unknown outside this region. In Naples and in some places in Southern Italy pasta is often associated with legumes which are different from beans (like broad beans, lentils and peas). Only industry and commerce are able to make a product and a recipe known outside the places of origin where they were born in the course of decades and centuries. For this reason the big food industries located in Northern Italy have started to produce some typical local sauces like the popular sauce in the Bologna style and have turned them into a symbol of Italy. That hasn’t happened to the Neapolitan sauces because they are the result of very slow cooking and so they were prepared on Sundays. The Garofalo pasta factory had the intuition to launch this new line of products. I hope that the pasta in the Genoese style will be as successful as the “ragł” sauce which was celebrated by Eduardo De Filippo and has spread everywhere as the pesto from Liguria beginning from the Eighties. Of course, in the case of food, industries can only in part reproduce those dishes prepared at home or restaurants: in fact they are handicraft products and industry tries to guarantee a standard product. So if you are a single and you have to go to work, you can prepare some pasta and season it with a half of the sauce contained in the Garofalo jar and add a bit of cheese: undoubtedly this dish is better than any other you can find in the franchising restaurants located in the railway stations, airports and motorway cafés and even in some city trattorias. The Garofalo sauces are good, satisfying and tasty and the ingredients are well mixed.

The recipe
It is strange that we start from here to talk about a typical Neapolitan recipe which can have some variations in each house or inn. About ten days ago, thanks to Google Analytics, I discovered that this web site is daily visited by people from Rome followed by people from Naples and then Milan: the contacts are spread all over Italy in a regular way and in 65 foreign countries. These numbers and graphics have made me understand that nothing can be taken for granted, nor what we see every day. So the 65 per cent of those who visit this web site (even from the Ivory Coast or from Bolivia!) don’t know what the pasta in the Genoese style is. But what is the pasta in the Genoese style? First of all when you say Genoese in Naples you mean pasta with the sauce in the Genoese style. I ask my wife Annarita to cook this dish when we don’t have guests from Campania to let them taste something typical of our territory: it is a sauce obtained from a very slow cooking of onions and meat. This cooking finishes when it gets a brown colour and becomes thick.

This is the basic recipe for about ten people
- 1 piece of meat of one and a half kilos
- extra virgin olive oil
- a bit of celery
- 1 carrot
- spices and herbs according to the family secrets
- salt
- pepper (I use chilli powder)
- 1 kilo of “ziti” pasta which is hand-broken
- grated cheese

In a high terracotta saucepan brown the meat in extra virgin olive oil so it gives out some liquids, then add the carrot, the celery and the spices and let them cook for some minutes. Then cover the meat with onions which are thinly chopped and add some water and a bit of salt. Cover it and let it cook at very low heat mixing it as you do when you prepare the tomato “ragł” sauce. After three hours the sauce will be thick and its taste will be sweet and tasty. The sweet taste depends on the quantity of spices added. Cut the meat in big slices: if it is dry and difficult to chew it means you have prepared it in the right way because all the taste is in the sauce, if it isn’t dry enough let it cook for longer time as soon as the sauce is completely thick. Put the sauce  in a wide pan (separate the meat), add slightly underdone “ziti” pasta, spices and fresh herbs as you prefer and brown it for one or two minutes mixing in order to make the starch of the pasta mix with the sauce and to make the sauce enter in every piece of pasta. Add pepper and serve it. You can add cheese to taste. Meat can be served as the main dish.

This is the basic recipe, you can add some wine and let it reduce, you can add a bit of tomato. Instead of oil you can use lard or you can brown some bacon before adding the onions. In short, it is important that you know the basic principles.

The taste
As buffalo mozzarella and chocolate, the Genoese is a successful dish because it meets the tastes of all the people, of children and adults, men and women, gourmets and those who love tradition, because it is sweet. Even those who don’t love onions will enjoy this dish. Until now I have never met a person who doesn’t like it. You will understand what I mean if you have tried the famous onion dish prepared by Salvatore Tassa of the Ciociare Hills (you will understand also if you took part in the blogger dinner in San Patrignano or if you tasted the risotto with onions of Paolo Marchi).

The spreading
The Genovese can be eaten everywhere in Naples. Traditional trattorias and restaurants propose it at lunchtime even if the pasta shapes vary from “paccheri” to “rigatoni”, from “mezzanelli” to “penne” and “pennoni”.

The ingredients

The copper-coloured onions from Montoro

The onions.
The onions, more than the meat and any other ingredient, are the secret of this dish. You shouldn’t use the white ones or the fresh ones. The onions from Tropea can be found everywhere in Italy. It’s good to associate them with meat because their taste is stronger. The copper-coloured ones from Montoro, in the province of Avellino, are even better: they are spread in all Campania, they are more fragrant and their taste is a bit less strong. They can be eaten with bread in the peasant style whereas the ones from Tropea are a bit too strong to be eaten without anything which accompanies them.

The "scamone" steer

The meat. Naples hasn’t a meat (and milk) tradition, it was too little and it was difficult to find it in periods of poverty. The best recipes, like the “ragł” or the Genoese, are obtained just from the parts of the animal which were considered debris. The most used part is the round (it is called “lacierto” in dialect), followed by the “colarda” and the muscle of the shin (“gammuncello”). The rich people used the first cut of veal, a kind of meat which Gennaro Esposito of Torre del Saracino likes very much. Other people use pork or lamb. I think that pork is too sweet whereas lamb is slightly bitter and it can be associated with onions in a better way. Regarding the lamb its taste is good but strong, also it is sweet, undoubtedly it can’t be proposed for a family meal.

The "ziti" pasta

The pasta. The traditional pasta used in the Genoese style is the “ziti”, that is, the one which was proposed in wedding banquets (in fact in dialect “zita” means bride). They are hand broken: the small pieces which remain after this operation should be put in the pan because they contribute to make the dish even more balanced: you can even eat them at the end. Now there are many industrial kinds of pasta which can be used for this recipe. In my opinion the best semi-homemade pasta is the one produced by Vicidomini from Castel San Giorgio and the one by Faella from Gragnano. Then there is Garofalo, the ones made with special bronze instruments from Vietri, Amato and La Baronia. I recommend the thick kinds of pasta and also the “paccheri” (but now they are too spread everywhere like tuna fish), “rigatoni”, “mezzanelli” and “penne”. Anyway use pasta which can be eaten with the fork and not with the spoon which isn’t appreciated in Naples because in the country they ate soups and not pasta. They say that pasta with beans, potatoes or peas are really good if the fork remains straight in the dish. Sometimes you may also use long pasta (like “bucatini” and wide noodles). Don’t use fresh pasta because the excess of starch ruins the balance of such a well balanced sauce.

The name
Now let’s talk about the most original thing. Why do we name it Genoese? According to Jeanne Carņla Francesconi, the Liber de coquina cites it and Cavalcanti duke of Bonvicino reports a similar recipe. There isn’t anything definite known but we could invent many reasons: yet it is sure that Genoese is a name, besides a placename, which has been widespread in all the Reign for many centuries. It is said that Genoese restaurant owners cooked meat with onions in the harbour and then the Neapolitans added pasta. Yet there is no trace of that in Liguria. Those who are more romantic tell that a Monzł from Ginevra introduced this variation of the onion soup in the court or in some aristocratic families. Maybe the truth is much more banal but we will never know that: for example in Naples you can find a double bread layer with cooked ham, cheese and a tomato in the centre which is called “parigina”. Who can explain the origin of this name? Maybe whoever named it had a hidden musicality in his head, probably cheese and cooked ham evoked the French refinement. Maybe something like that also happened in the case of the Genoese.

The pairing
There isn’t a traditional association of Genoese with wine. I personally recommend the Coda di Volpe from Sannio (produced by Fattoria La Rivolta, Ocone or Cantina del Taburno) or the white Pallagrello. The Sčrole produced by Terre del Principe is perfect. You need a white wine which should be cool but not too cold and it should be full-bodied in order to make you give you a sense of freshness in your mouth.

"Ziti" pasta in with tuna-fish and onion sauce

Another variation, with tuna fish
In Cetara “Al Convento” restaurant has been proposing the variation with tuna fish for some years and it is really good. It is a lighter version. The tuna fish Genoese has also been recovered by Franco Tammaro of the San Pietro and has started to spread in the restaurants of the Amalfi Coast. When you eat it you will not be so afraid to put weight on!

The ancestral method
This dish was prepared in the old, traditional close-knit families. It was served in a big tureen where everyone could take some from it. It is a magic rite which is in the memory of all the Neapolitans since they were children. For this reason this dish should always be enjoyed with those people we are fond of.

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