This magnificent minimal dish does not have its origin in Genova but in world´s culinary capital, Naples of course
ingredients for 4 servings (cost about 6€ pp)
- 800 g beef shoulder (or 400 g beef shoulder and 400 g pork shoulder)
- 2 kg onions (I make no mistake, I do mean 2 kilos onions)
- EV olive oil
- 1 carrot
- 1 small celery stick
- 50 ml brandy
- 200 ml white wine
- Black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 20 juniper cones
- 400 g Ziti or Rigatoni
- Pecorino romano
I am very fond of this dish. It contains just a few ingredients, but if it is well made (long time of cooking is crucial), it is an excellent main course dish for a Sunday lunch (the large amount of onions makes it a bad idea for dinner).
– “Are you crazy. What the fuck are you suggesting to the readers? To destroy their Sunday, eating an extravagant dish which contains 2 kilos of onions? This would not be a Sunday, but a Bloody Sunday ……..”
– Well, this dish is not as heavy as you imagine, if you follow my suggestions
-“And what a silly name is this? Genovese, not from Genova but from Naples?”
– According to the legend, the dish owes its name to Genovese cooks who worked in Napoli. But I don´t know if this is true. This dish is so great that only a “cuoco Napoletano” could have created it. But, let´s start.
First of all we have to choose the onions. Hundreds of pages have been written about which onion is the best for “la Genovese” since it is the front, protagonist ingredient of this particular dish. My suggestion is to use half white and half red onions, to get a wider palette of aromas and colours. The onions should be cut into slices (thin to medium as we want them to be visually present in the whole preparation).
Many contemporary Neapolitan cooks boil the sliced onions for 2 minutes (in batches of course), as their huge amount annoys some people´s stomachs. Personally, I never do it when I cook Genovese for myself, my stomach has received napalms of allioli and it has become iron. But when I prepare it for people with untrained stomachs, I follow this direction. So, I suggest that you follow it too.
What have we already said many times? That every cook who respects himself has to PRE SALT the meat he prepares, as the salt tenderizes it and makes it juicier and tastier. Therefore, the evening before, we apply coarse salt all over the meat and we keep it in the fridge all night long.
We then wash, pat dry, cut and brown the meat, we add the brandy first and the wine, the onions, the carrot and the celery (both cut in dice), as well as the juniper cones and the bay leaf. We lower the heat to minimum and we let them cook in a Dutch oven at the minimum intensity of the smallest available stove for at least 3-4 hours, maybe more. We want a very well cooked meat, almost melted and a relatively wet, fluid sauce. We check the saltiness, as we always have to do.
We remove the bay leaf, we add some pepper and we set aside.
In another pot we boil the pasta till less than al dente. The Neapolitans cooks use ziti, a relatively rare pasta type, something like bucatini, but thicker. They break the ziti by hand in half, in order to take advantage of their rough ends, which help create an even more creamy sauce. If we cannot find ziti, we can use rigatoni instead.
When ready, we follow the “mantecare” procedure, using the 1/3 of the sauce and we add the pecorino romano, stirring continuously. The pecorino quantity must be relatively low, having in mind that this dish is onion-oriented.
We put in plates putting over the pasta the rest of the sauce, the meat and maybe some more cheese (not much) and we serve.