Ziti alla Genovese

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Manuela Zangara serves up a classic ziti alla Genovese recipe, the intense onion and beef broth-based sauce that is perfect with pasta. Despite the name this dish actually hails from Naples, not to be confused with the classic Ligurian dish, pesto alla Genovese.

First published in 2017

Contrary to what the name suggests, Ziti alla Genovese is not a dish from Genoa. In fact, it is a traditional dish from Naples. The origins of the name remain a mystery. Someone says the sauce was originally created by a cook whose surname was Genovese, others believe that it must have something to do with the naval connection between Naples and Genoa, as they are both cities with very important harbours.

Whatever the origins of the name, Ziti alla Genovese is indeed a dish from Naples, where it is very often prepared for the always important Sunday meal. The Genovese sauce is an onion and meat-based sauce. Beef, onions and other vegetables are slowly cooked and reduced for over 2 hours, until the sauce becomes creamy, sweet and almost caramelised.

I like to use beef eye of the round (girello) for this dish, as it is perfect for such a long cooking time and it remains tender and delicious. You can serve the meat as a separate dish. Ziti is the pasta of choice, just make sure to break each of them into 3 pieces, so it is easier to eat! As with all traditional recipes, every family has its own variation… This is mine and it is delicious!




Ziti alla Genovese

  • 1kg beef, eye of the round cut
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stick
  • 60ml of white wine
  • 1kg onion, sliced
  • 2 cherry tomatoes, or 1 tsp tomato purée
  • pecorino, finely grated
  • 400g of pasta, (ziti is used here)
  • 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper


  • Food processor or blender


Clean and roughly chop the carrots and celery stick. Place them in a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. You can finely chop the carrots and celery by hand if you prefer
Sauté the carrot and celery mix with the extra virgin olive oil, until soft and fragrant
Add the meat and brown it well on all sides. Add the white wine, salt and pepper to taste
Cover the meat with the sliced onions and cherry tomatoes and stir. Add enough water to cover the meat and onions, cover with a lid and cook, over a low flame, for at least 2 hours or until the meat is very tender
When the meat is ready, remove it from the pan and set aside. When it cools down, slice it and serve it in a separate dish (it will work nicely in sandwiches)
Increase the heat and reduce the onion sauce until golden brown
Using your hands, snap the ziti into 3 parts and cook the pasta al dente, following the instructions on the package
Drain the ziti and mix in a serving bowl with the Genovese sauce. grate over some Pecorino Romano and serve

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Manuela is an Italian native who currently resides in Australia. She is the author of Manu’s Menu, a food blog about traditional Italian cuisine that she started in 2011. Her blog is one of the top food blogs in Australia.

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