Pasta with Genovese Sauce (Pasta alla Genovese)

Pasta all Genovese is a rich and savory onion and beef ragu served with pasta. Pasta with Genovese Sauce is a dish from Naples made with slowly cooked onions and meat until caramelized, bringing out its natural sweetness. It’s a delicious all-in-one meal that’s cozy and comforting.

Best Pasta alla Genovese…

Beef chunks, carrots, and celery are cooked in white wine and extra virgin olive oil to create a flavorful ragu that pairs perfectly with pasta.

Best of all, the beef becomes a “melt-in-your-mouth” fork-tender. YUM!

Growing up, our mom made her Genovese sauce using chunks of veal, as she did for her veal stew. But, nowadays, veal has become extremely expensive.

So instead of veal, using chunks of beef (for beef stew) made more sense.

Pasta with Genovese Sauce by

What is Pasta alla Genovese Sauce?

Pasta with Genovese Sauce is a southern Italian dish that was introduced to Naples by traders and sailors who came from the city of Genoa to work in the Naples area during the Renaissance period.  

It is basically an onion sauce, and it is cooked with meat, like a stew.

Rather than the usual Neapolitan “tomato-based sauces” we are most familiar with, like our mom’s quick marinara sauce, or her best pork ragu recipe. This one is different.

Plus, it is a fantastic dish to make for a Sunday dinner, or when the weather is chilly, snowing, or raining. Everyone will enjoy this cozy and hearty dish.

The best part? …your house will smell AMAZING! 😉

A forkful of pasta with Genovese sauce over a bowl. by

Ingredients & Notes for Pasta alla Genovese Sauce:

There are 6 ingredients to make this delicious sauce, (not counting salt and pepper).

1. ONIONS: choose white onions or yellow onions, and you will need about 2 pounds.

2. CARROT: one carrot is all you will need for the sauce.

3. CELERY: also, one celery stalk is needed for flavoring.

4. BEEF CHUCK for STEW: it is a good idea to purchase beef chuck for stew from your local butcher, or at the meat section at Whole Foods.

5. WHITE WINE: any good white wine you may have on hand is perfect. Open a bottle for this recipe, then keep the bottle chilled to serve at dinner.

6. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: you will need a good amount of olive oil for this sauce. It gives a rich flavor to the caramelized onions while it simmers the entire mixture until golden brown.

How is this sauce cooked?

Genovese Sauce is a slow-cooked recipe. It is simmered for a few hours until the onions are caramelized and the meat is so tender, it falls apart with a fork.

Trust me – it’s amazing!

To Make it…

This is an easy process – where you toss all the ingredients into ONE pot, (and in order, with sliced onions last) cover, and simmer on low heat for a few hours.

Directions to make Pasta alla Genovese…

STEP 1: Grab a large pasta pot or Dutch oven and place it on the stovetop.

STEP 2: Dice or chop the carrot and celery into small pieces. Set aside.

LAST STEP: Next, open the package of chunk meat and examine them. Trim off excess fat, and if the pieces are too large, cut them into 1 or 2-inch pieces. Season the meat with salt and black pepper.

Add the ingredients in order:

1. Pour in the extra virgin olive oil and turn on the heat to moderate.

2. Toss in the chopped carrot and celery.

3. Then immediately following, toss in the pieces of chunk meat.

4 photos of vegetables chopped and onions sliced. by

4. As they simmer, slice the onions, then toss those on top, and continue until all the onions have been sliced. Cover with a lid and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. NEXT, pour in the white wine. Cover again, and bring to a bubbling boil, then reduce the heat to a “low simmer.”

2 photos of a Dutch oven pot, filled with raw onions, and other simmered after one hour. by

6. After one hour, lift open the cover and give it a stir to combine the mixture.

7. After the second hour, do the same thing – give it another stir.

2 photos of onion sauce caramlized after 2 hours and more. by

8. Finally, after 2 and half hours, taste the sauce and season with salt and black pepper to your taste. Cover again, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, then turn off the heat.

The sauce is now ready to be served!

Cook the pasta, then toss the sauce with the pasta and serve.

A llarge pot filled with penne pasta tossed with Genovese Sauce. by

What kind of pasta works best?

For this hearty sauce, it is best to serve it with penne, ziti, and even rigatoni pasta. Simply because they hold “the sauce” better and will satisfy everyone’s appetite. It is pure comfort food.

Can we use a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot?

Yes, you can. You can use either one, place all the ingredients into the pot, and set the timer.

Can we omit the meat?

Yes, you can, and make this a “vegetarian version” for onion sauce with pasta.

Pro’s Notes and Tips…

  • When cutting the onions, you should expect to cry, at least I did. To help minimize that, run the raw onion under cold water for a few seconds before slicing.
  • Keep in mind, that as you stir the onion sauce, the meat should fall apart. If it does not, you can easily break up the pieces (inside the pot) using a wooden spoon.
  • Our mom made this Genovese sauce for years. Sometimes she would add some fresh herbs like parsley or basil for more flavor.
  • Finally, at the end, and just before you serve: when you combine the pasta with the Genovese sauce, you can drizzle an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil directly into the pasta, to give it extra richness and savory flavor.
  • We recommend you serve this dish with grated pecorino cheese on top. (it’s the best!)
A dish of cooked penne with Genovese sauce and grated cheese on top. by

Pasta with Genovese Sauce is a hearty and savory dish.

The sauce is naturally sweet-tasting. Served with pasta and a little grated cheese on top, it’s “Italian comfort food” at its best!

It is budget-friendly and inexpensive to make. The total cost for this meal is about $15.00 for 6 servings. (Love that!) 😉

Serve it up with some crusty bread and a salad on the side – it’s delicious!

Try it!


Additional recipes for Meat Ragu…

Yield: 6 servings

Pasta with Genovese Sauce (Pasta alla Genovese)

A bowl of penne pasta with onions and meat sauce on top.

Pasta all Genovese is a rich and savory onion and beef ragu served with pasta. Pasta with Genovese Sauce is a dish from Naples made with slowly cooked onions and meat until caramelized, bringing out its natural sweetness. Best part? The beef becomes a "melt-in-your-mouth" fork-tender. It's pure comfort food at its best!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes


  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot - finely chopped
  • 1 celery - finely chopped
  • 16 ounces (1 pound) of beef chuck for stew
  • 2 pounds (about 4 extra-large size) of white onions - sliced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound of pasta (penne, ziti or rigatoni)
  • Optional: grated pecorino cheese, for serving


1. First, season the pieces of meat with some salt and black pepper.

2. Next, Using a 6-quart, heavy Dutch oven pot, (or a large sauce pot) toss in 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, then the chopped carrot and celery, and toss in all the pieces of beef.

3. Turn on the heat, to moderate heat. As you slice the onions, toss them on top directly over the meat and vegetables. Cover with a lid, and allow the heat to start to cook for about 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Next, pour in the white wine and cover with the lid again. Lower the heat to the lowest simmer.

5. Simmer on lowest heat for 2 + 1/2 hours, stirring after every hour.

6. After 2 + 1/2 hours. Stir the sauce and taste it. Season with some salt and black pepper to your taste. NOTE: Here is where you can toss in some fresh basil or fresh parsley, about 2 tablespoons. Continue to simmer the sauce (covered) for additional 30 minutes, Turn off the heat.

7. Meanwhile, bring a large pot filled with water to a boil. Toss in 2 teaspoons of salt. Toss in the pasta and cook the pasta until al-dente.

8. Drain when pasta is ready. Bring the pasta back into the pot, and toss the Genovese sauce into the pot. Stir until well combined. Then serve.

9. Serve with some grated pecorino cheese, at the table.

Serves 6


When the sauce is finished cooking, you can take a wooden spoon and break up some of the chunks of meat in the sauce before mixing with the pasta.

Finally, at the end, and just before you serve: when you combine the pasta with the Genovese sauce, you can drizzle an additional 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil directly into the pasta, to give it extra richness and savory flavor.

Nutrition Information:


6 servings

Serving Size:

1 serving

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 536Total Fat: 15.9gCarbohydrates: 57.6gFiber: 3.5gSugar: 7.2gProtein: 33.3g

Did you make this recipe?

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Happy Cooking! 🙂

thanks for stopping by…

xo anna and liz

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Welcome! From Anna and Liz

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  1. Genovese sauce is totally new to me and it sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing the family recipe.

    1. Hi Karen! So nice to hear from you, and thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a sweet comment. We grew up eating Genovese Sauce and it was usually on Sundays and our mom always made it during the cold-bitter winter months. It happens to be one of our favorite dishes. We hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Have a great weekend! 🙂