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Ziti Pasta with la Genovese ragu
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5 from 29 votes

Pasta with la Genovese ragu from Naples

This iconic recipe from Naples involves slow cooking beef and onions to create a rich tasty sauce that can be served with pasta, as well as with potatoes. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time4 hrs 10 mins
Total Time4 hrs 25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Campania, Italian, Southern Italian
Keyword: authentic Italian pasta recipe, genovese ragu, Italian food, Neapolitan recipe, ragu, ziti, zitoni
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono


  • 320 g ziti or zitoni pasta (11oz) you can also use penne or rigatoni
  • 1.5 kg coppery onions (3.3lbs) you can also use normal yellow onions
  • 900 g beef (2lbs) chuck steak or brasing steak
  • 2 stalks celery washed and cut into small pieces
  • 2 carrots washed and cut into small pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine
  • 50 g Parmigiano Reggiano (2oz) grated for serving


  • Begin by peeling the onions and slicing them thinly. Wash and cut the carrots and celery into small pieces
  • Remove any fat from the meat and cut it into about 5-7 pieces
  • Heat the olive oil in a deep pan. Fry the carrots, celery and onions together for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously.
  • Add the meat, parsley, bay leaves and a teaspoon of salt. Mix together and cook for a couple of minutes until the meat starts to brown. (some people prefer to brown the meat first, I didn’t)
  • Cover the pot, lower the heat and cook for about 3 hours. You will need to check it and stir every now and again, but the onions should create enough liquid for the meat to cook in. If it seems dry add some beef stock or water. 
  • After 3 hours, remove the bay leaves, add half the wine, salt and pepper to taste, stir and let simmer on a low heat uncovered for one hour. You may need to add more wine as the sauce reduces. Continue to stir often. 
  • Once the meat is very soft you can remove it from the sauce and save it to serve later, apart from a small quantity which should be shredded (cut into very small pieces) and returned to the sauce. Alternatively shred all the meat and return it to the sauce. (this is what I did) 
  • Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil. Bring to the boil again.
  • If you are using long ziti or zitoni, break the pasta in half or 3 pieces before adding it to the water. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet.
  • When the pasta is cooked, save a cup of the cooking water and drain. If your sauce seems dry, add some of the pasta cooking water and stir. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix well or in the case of long pieces of pasta it may be easier to cover it with sauce once you have plated it.
  • Serve immediately with chopped parsley and grated Parmigiano cheese.


This recipe really needs to be cooked for a long time, although the process may be sped up by using a pressure cooker, I'm not sure that the results would be as delicious. In Naples, they traditionally use use ziti or zitoni pasta that has been broken in half by hand before cooking. If you can’t find this pasta then short pasta such as rigatoni or penne work well too.
This dish can be made a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge (in fact the sauce tastes even better). You can also serve the sauce with pasta and most the pieces of meat with potatoes. Two meals or courses with the work of one!