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Neapolitan Pot Roast and
Creamy Pasta Sauce



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Building Detail, Ischia, Bay of Naples, Campania, Italy
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La Genovese
Neapolitan Pot Roast and
Creamy Pasta Sauce

In Nonna's Kitchen: Recipes and
Traditions from Italy's Grandmothers

by Carol Field, 1997, HarperCollins

Serves 4 to 6

“This dish is real home cooking, something that you would never find in a
restaurant. It was once
the sauce made by poor people in Naples for Sundays
and holidays before it was supplanted by the now famous ragù. It uses the
same principle as ragù – the vegetables cook for a long time with a piece of
meat that benefits from long cooking. Of the three women who gave me their
recipes for la Genovese, two purposefully omit tomatoes and carrots, even
though their mothers and aunts always used them. I am following Liliana
d’Ambrosio, who uses both and cooks the sauce to bring back the tastes of
her childhood, the food of Neapolitan families for generations. When Gisa
Sotis cooks Genovese, she uses red onions; Ines Pernarella puts the sauce
through a food mill at the end to make a purée as soft as butter.
Perhaps there are a few Neapolitans who ponder the mystery of why this purely Neapolitan dish is called Genovese when not a hint of it exists in the cooking
of Genoa, but certainly there are thousands more who just plunge their forks
into what is for them the food of home. All it takes is masses of onions cooked
slowly with the beef and a few vegetables to produce an irresistible sauce in
which the onions almost melt to a sweet creamy mass. The grandmothers’
tradition is to serve half the creamy sauce as a first course with pasta that is
somewhere in size between ziti and perciatelli and then serve the rest with
the meat, which may follow immediately or appear the next day. You could,
of course, serve most of the sauce with the meat and save any leftover sauce
for pasta later.
When I persisted in asking why a dish from the area around Naples was called Genovese, none of the ‘nonne’ could give me an answer. Domenico Manzon,
an expert on the food of Naples, says that this method of cooking is definitely
a Neapolitan invention which has nothing at all to do with Genoa. Its heritage
is probably from the Angevins, who used rich thick sauces made with meat,
vegetables, and onions.”

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) diced pancetta
3 pounds finest pot roast in one piece, such
as point of the rump, or bottom round
8 large (about 4 pounds) white onions,
finely sliced
2 to 3 carrots, chopped
1/2 celery rib, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh marjoram
1 meat bouillon cube
1/3 cup dry white or red wine
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped,
or 1 tablespoon tomato concentrate or tomato paste

4 quarts water
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 pound ziti or perciatelli, or
substitute a
Fresh Egg Pasta
such as fettuccine or tagliatelle

Warm the olive oil and pancetta in a deep, heavy casserole or a 12-inch heavy sauté pan large enough to hold the meat and all the onions comfortably. Add
the meat and cook it over high heat until it is golden brown, turning often so
that it doesn’t stick, about 15 minutes. Once it is browned, remove the meat
to a plate. Add the onions, carrots, celery, parsley, basil, and marjoram to the
pot and cover. Cook over the lowest possible heat until the onions are soft
and limp but not taken on no color, at least 25 to 30 minutes. The onions are
plentiful and must cook very slowly; they are almost the entire liquid for the sauce. Return the meat to the pot and cook over the lowest possible heat for about 20 minutes, turning the meat several times. Add the meat bouillon cube, cover, and cook slowly over very low heat, adding wine and tomato or tomato paste a little at a time and scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the meat doesn’t stick. Cook until the onions are soft and melting like a cream, another
2 to 2 1/2, even 3 hours. The onions become a thick mass and the meat is
ready when it can be easily pierced with a knife. Ines Pernaella, one of my
sources, told me that she put the onions in the food processor at the very end
to make a true cream of the sauce.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of
coarse salt, and cook the pasta until it is al dente. If you are being as tradi-
tional as a Neapolitan nonna, serve a bit more than half of the sauce over
the pasta and the rest over the sliced meat.

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