LA GENOVESE….one of the main sauces and dishes of Napoletana Cuisine, that is, the food of Naples, Italy. Growing up it was just Italian Pot Roast, later on I learned of it’s proper term, LA GENOVESE. Wait…doesn’t that mean it’s from Northern Italy’s city of Genoa? Well yes and no. Naples and Genoa are both active seaport cities in Italy and sailors work and sail between ports all the time. My great Grandfather was the pilot of the ferry between Naples and Sicily and Capri. All of this interaction brought many dishes to different coastal ports and La Genovese is probably one of them. In Genovese cuisine there’s a meat sauce called Tocco alla Genovese, or Sugo di Carne alla Genovese. This is a sauce with onions, celery, carrots, tomato, mushrooms and veal or beef, wine and cooked until the meat is tender. Most likely this sauce was brought to the port city of Napoli and Genovese cooks introduced the style. THEN, it makes the change and becomes Napoletana. The Napoletani use beef, sometime veal, sometimes pork. but they triple the amount of onions, traditionally the local red or bronze onions. They remove the mushrooms. They use Beef (although some families prefer using veal or pork). The sauce is started in lard and often with a little cured pork bits. The tomato, unlike the usual Napoletana amount of tomato, is almost non-existent. A ration of 1 lb for 1 lb of meat to onions is the rule. The sauce is cooked low and slow for hours until the meat is forktender. Tradition says to serve the onion sauce first over long tubes of broken Ziti (Zitone) and lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The meat is sliced and served as a secondo. Think Pot Roast, specifically a Jewish or Eastern European pot roast heavy on the onions. That’s the flavor of this… It’s amazing. Every kitchen in Naples and in Italian America has its own version of this most flavorful sauce. I’m happy to share mine with you now!
FOR 4 PEOPLE
3 1/2 LB THICK CHUCK STEAK, CAN BE IN TWO PIECES IF NEEDED
2 TBS DICED GUANCIALE OR PANCETTA OR 2 TBS LARD OR 2 TBS OLIVE OIL
3 1/2 LBS DICED RED ONIONS OR WHITE OR A MIX
2 STALKS FINE DICED CELERY WITH SOME OF THEIR LEAVES (NEVER THROW THEM OUT!!)
1 LARGE FINE DICED CARROT
1 TBS. TOMATO PASTE
1 CUP WHITE WINE
1 CUP BEEF STOCK OR WATER, OR CHICKEN STOCK
1 LARGE BAY LEAF
SALT AND BLACK PEPPER
IN A LARGE heavy pot, like a dutch oven slowly render the guanciale or pancetta until there’s a nice amount of lard in the pot….let the diced pieces get a little crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and reserve them for later. Season the meat with generous Kosher Salt and Cracked Black pepper and sear it in the hot lard for at leat 5 minutes per side. you want a nice brown crust on both sides. Remove to a platter and loosely tent with foil. Now add the onions, celery and carrots to a bowl. Season them with salt and pepper. Add this to the pot and stir them with the drippings in the bottom of the pan. Cover and let this cook for 15 minutes on medium. Stir it a few times so there’s no real browning on the onions. Now add the wine and the stock and the tomato. Blend together. Add the meat and let it get completely covered by the pot mixture. Bring to a boil THEN reduce to a simmer. Add the bay leaf. Give it a good stir and let this simmer for 3-3 1/2 hours. Keep it covered for the first 1 1/2 hours. Stir every 1/2 hour. For the remaining time leave it 1/2 covered. Look for a few things while this cooks. It will reduce. The color will change to a light rusty tan. The onions, MUST be soft and melted. And the meat, it must be fork tender. Follow what I did and you’ll have a pot of Genovese that you will make again and again.