Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rigatoni alla Genovese – Maybe the Best Meat Sauce You’ve Never Heard Of

I have no idea why this amazingly flavorful Genovese-style meat sauce isn’t way more popular than it is. It’s quite simply one of the best pasta sauces you’ll ever taste, thanks to a very slow cooking process, and massive amounts of onions.

So, I just thought of two really good reasons why this isn’t way more popular. The recipe takes you a good 10 hours to make. In case you haven’t heard, this is roughly 9.9 hours longer than your typical Millennial is willing to spend doing something.

Also, slicing six pounds of raw onions by hand is no one’s idea of a great time. And no, you can’t use a food processor, or veggie cutting gizmo you bought at 2AM. These machines will crush and bruise the onions, releasing harsh compounds that negatively alter the taste. Cut your onions by hand, with a sharp knife, or not at all.

As I suggest in the video, cut them one or two at a time, near a breezy window, while you brown the meat, and you’ll be done in no time. Once everything is prepped, the recipe couldn’t be easier. Simmer until the meat and onions melt into each other, and serve. I really hope you give this very old, virtually unknown, but very tasty meat sauce a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for enough sauce for 2 pounds of dry rigatoni (8 servings):
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces pancetta or salt pork, diced
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, seasoned with 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup white wine
4 pounds yellow onions, sliced
2 pounds red onions, sliced
water or broth as needed to adjust liquid level during simmering
salt to taste

-- To serve, simmer finished sauce with al dente pasta for a few minutes until pasta is cooked through. Finish with fresh marjoram, cayenne, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

54 comments:

The Old Woman said...

Hey chef john! This looks like yet another amazing recipe to try. However I don't eat pork (not vegetarian though), is there any pancetta alternative I could use to still include that flavour? Thanks!

Bri said...

Hi John,
Would this also work in a crock pot? Knowing me, I'd forget it was on the stove!

Elisha said...

Assuming liquid level issues = a splash of stock?
So the plan would be to make a huge batch and freeze in portions, reheating and finishing with the pasta as desired?

Jack Little said...

Is this suitable for freezing? Thinking I could make a big pot of it, freeze it in individual portions and get them out when I need a quick meal.

Stefano Bart said...

Great recipe as always, dear Chef John. I usually like to cook my pasta directly into the genovese, adding a splash of water if needed. Can i use beef ribs and/or tail instead of chuck?

Johnathan Weidman said...

I wonder if this could be adapted to allow for slow cooker after the browning and deglazing?

mattbrown said...

Looks awesome! 2 questions:
1. Could you finish in a slow cooker?
2. When done, could you can it in a pressure canner?

Yakamein Aficionado said...

Another spectacular looking recipe, Chef! I'm trying to compose a few recipes for my newlywed friends, but they want them adjusted for their new crock pot (you know, newlyweds and their slow cookers) so provided I browned everything ahead of time, could it then be transferred to a crock pot for the 8 to 10 hours? Thanks

Kelly said...

Could this be transferred to a slow cooker for the 8-10 hours of simmering? Or is it better to save this for a day I can be at home all day to babysit it? Thank you!!

Chef John said...

Dear slow cooker people,
I'm not a fan, but a crock pot would work for the simmering part.

Also, there is no sub for pancetta.

DnR's MOM said...

what? thought you forgot the cayenne, but you came through with the presentation.........dish saved!!

Jason Smith said...

A food wish that I didn't know that I had! Thanks, CJ!

Ron Decline said...

I don't have the attention span to wait for 8+ hours and usually start drinking as I prepare a meal. Such a long cooking time would mean that I would be too drunk to enjoy the food when eventually ready so, would this recipe be suitable for a pressure cooker? I am a new convert to pressure cooking and would like to know how long I would need to cook this under pressure to produce a meal this delicious.

AFB said...

But what if my Beringer japanese mandolin is the sharpest blade I own?

Dain said...

Can this be refrigerated after the deglazed part overnight, and then simmered for the 8 hours the next day?

Soo Song said...

Mine is boiling on the stove now. Smells so yummy I cannot fall asleep! Thinking about using shaved Gruyere in addition to Parm-Regi. Cannot wait til I try tomorrow!

Thanks, Chef John, you save my marriage! God bless!!

Michele Cryan said...

what to do with left over tomato paste. Always just a tbl spoon or less. What to do with the left over. I always end up throwing it away. What does Chef John do?

jwhaight said...

besides using the red onion what would you recommend using for the other onions (brown,yellow,white,sweet) and does it matter the ratio between red and other.

thanks

Jason Smith said...

This brought a tear to my eye when I tasted it. Chef, I browned my onions separately till well caramelized - then added a touch of marmite to the onions and tomato paste to pique. Heavenly.... Thank you!

Unknown said...

What about pressure cooker, a la Kenji's recipe for French Onion Soup: http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/01/the-food-lab-pressure-cooker-caramelized-onions-onion-soup.html

?

Chef John said...

Sorry, can't comment on pressure cooker, as I'm a creature of habit, and rarely use. However, If you have one, and like to use it, use it!

Chef John said...

Never buy tomato paste in a can! Buy the one in the tube, and you never waste!

Techman said...

For those who use canned paste, line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap and freeze the remainder of the can in one tbsp. portions. Once frozen, trim the plastic wrap around the cubes and transfer them to a zip lock freezer bag. Then whenever you need some, just take out a cube and toss it in. I do the exact same thing with chicken stock and it makes life a lot easier.

rotunder said...

Hey Chef. Can this recipe be halved easily or for it to work properly do you need to do the full thing?

Thanks and keep up the good work

Nicholas Stork said...

Chef John, how would this work with pork shoulder?

Vera said...

Can't wait to try this. Do you think this would work in a pressure cooker? If so, how much time do you think it will take?

ghrain22 said...

Hey Chef John. I'm a big fan and love the recipe. Normally I'm not one to ask about substitutes; however, I was curious if it's ever acceptable to substitute white wine with red wine? Is there a rule of thumb as to when to use one over the other (or when either is acceptable)? This dish seemed kind of like a braisey red wine kind of dish, so I was surprised when you busted out the white wine(maybe I'm being too french). Thanks a ton for the great recipe.

ghrain22 said...

Hey Chef John. I'm a big fan and love the recipe. Normally I'm not one to ask about substitutes; however, I was curious if it's ever acceptable to substitute white wine with red wine? Is there a rule of thumb as to when to use one over the other (or when either is acceptable)? This dish seemed kind of like a braisey red wine kind of dish, so I was surprised when you busted out the white wine(maybe I'm being too french). Thanks a ton for the great recipe.

Carolyn McCraley said...

I made this today for my family and they loved it! Thank you so much, this is a keeper. I always trust your recipes as they always turn out
delicious.

Michele Cryan said...

You are so smart "SMRT"

Hosh M said...

Hi Chef John.
This dish looks fantastic!
Don't worry, I am NOT going to ask about ingredient substitutions or alternative cooking methods, etc., but I do have but one question:
Do you see a problem with stretching the simmering over two days?
For instance, can I begin this on a Saturday by cooking 4 or 5 hours, letting it cool and refrigerate overnight and returning it to the stove within enough time to serve for a Sunday meal? I would think that would be fine but just wanted to run it by you.
Thanks!

Tanner Kurtul said...

Hi chef john. how would this be if it was made over the weekend, froze then thawed out to serve later in the week?

Fizz Bronson said...

The key to a perfect pasta alla genovese are the onions. Traditionally you use cipolle Ramata di Montoro (copper onions). Those onions are sweeter than white onions and have their own flavor profile. Sadly, you won't get the real Napoli taste without them. If you want to make the traditional version of this dish use beef shank instead of beef chuck and use a pasta called ziti. Break the ziti by hand before you cook them.
Source: uncle-in-law is a chef from Napoli.

Jeff Levy said...

Chef John, what cut of Chuck?


Alan Haggart said...

Just made this exactly as described, the result was really delicious.

Thanks again Chef!

Julian Cook said...

I made a bach yesterday, it really is nice, so nice I had it again today for lunch but with cheesy mash, that works as well

Jeff said...

This is a great recipe.

I substituted in wild boar for the beef and it was pretty much life changing.

John Tedesco said...

I've been drooling over this recipe for days and finally had a chance to make it Sunday. Truly amazing. Friends came over and we dipped chunks of bread into this heavenly goodness while it cooked. Highly recommended.

wharper said...

In using a slow cooker for the long slow simmer, I'm guessing that the lid should be off during that 9-10 hour stretch?

Mary said...

Another great recipe. I didn't have wine and I forgot to buy pancetta at the store so I used bacon instead. I also didn't have all day to cook it so I threw the top on my stockpot and threw it in the oven for four hours. This is an absolutely delicious recipe, I will make it again with pancetta and wine this time, of course.

Jim said...

Loved it! Amazing depth of flavor from relatively few and inexpensive ingredients. I forgot the two longitudinal cuts in my onions but they ended up breaking down just fine. The pancetta was ore-packaged and finely diced so I don't think I got the flavor from it that I should have. Next time I'll go to the deli counter and get a thick piece to cut up myself. I'm a huge fan of your recipes and entertaining commentary.

Mike Ellis said...

I made this this past weekend and it was quite good. A couple comments, though... first, it was SUPER heavy. I wasn't really able to skim any grease off while cooking - not sure if this was due to using thin-sliced pancetta - but it resulted in a dish so heavy, I could only eat about half as much of it as we would be to eat another pasta dish. Additionally, while very good and rich, was that it is kinda just one note. It tasted like (very good!) pot roast pasta. I was trying to think of another flavor/ingredient that could be added that would add another layer. Perhaps a dollup of ricotta on top although that would make it even heavier. In either case, thanks again for the video!

Unknown said...

I LOL'ed at 8:27. Can't wait to try this. Thanks, Chef! I've loved every recipe I've tried from you.

Alejandro Duran said...

Hey! I'm squarely in the millenial age range and I babysat this for all ten hours! Also, you have helped me score major points with my GF. Thanks Chef John!

Maria Scarano said...

I used beef chuck. The beef is not breaking down as shown in your video. Meat is very tough. Do not know why beef is not as tender as shown in your video

Chef John said...

keep cooking!!!! it can't stay tough! It will eventually fall apart! never stop until it's tender! good luck!

Adam Bowler said...

Hey Chef,

Just gave this recipe a shot. Finished the two thirty minute periods of simmering on medium heat and now I have about an eighth of an inch of burnt black sludge in the bottom of my pot. I wonder if I had low moisture onions or something? I do live in a dry climate (Colorado) and I suppose it's possible my electric stove top is hotter than your gas flame on 'medium' heat. I know I had enough onions in the pot (I used 5 yellow and 3 red, all medium-large). I'm using a really good heavy-bottom pot too.

Lily Tran said...

Can I make this in my 3qt Dutch oven?

Michael Maier said...

This sounds like a recipe I really need to try.

I'd up the wine to at least 1 cup and omit the tomato paste.

Thanks for sharing, Chef.

Adam B said...

To be quite honest this one didnt really click with me. It was really heavy (perhaps all the pancetta) and even after 10 hours of cooking, the structure wasnt all that smooth, but mostly it lacked flavour in my opinion. I would prefer adding a bouquet garni of some sort and perhaps red wine instead of the white, to make it more aromatic, this was very much like an oily beef meatcan.

Alex said...

Made it with beef cheeks instead of beef chuck (they're cheap and easy to find around here), basil instead of marjoram, and Gruyère instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Good stuff.

cameron kamarei said...

Chef John,

Could I use a nice beer in substitution for the white wine?

Also, you are DA MAN!!

Best,
Keenan

Søren Augustesen said...

I have just tried this recipe and it was very delicious!

Very different taste from a "traditional" meat sauce, and well worth the time it takes to make this. But it is worth noticing that this is not something you can leave on the stove on its own for hours. I have to add about 3/4-1 cup of liquid per hour. I use a mixture of chicken and viel broth to keep the liquid level high enough to early cover the meat and onions. Only at the very end did I reduce the liquid level down to a "meat sauce" consistency.

I also ended up using a whisk at the very end to break up the meat into a fine pieces.

All in all well worth the time if you plan to stay at home all day anyway so you can look after the liquid level for 9-10 hours :-)

Bathed in Grace said...

Chef John,

This looks wonderful. I am a big fan of my pressure cooker, and this strikes me like a good candidate for using it. Is there any reason it would not work? Seems like a good way to cut down on the time for this sauce.

Best,
Brandon

Your biggest food fan who lives in Rwanda.