Saturday, July 20 2024

Ziti spezzati alla genovese, is one of the great classics of Neapolitan cuisine.

The centuries-old history of this dish dates back to the 14th century, when the making of the dish is recounted in one of the earliest Neapolitan cookery manuscripts but in Latin: the “liber de coquina,” where there is a recipe entitled “de tria ianuensis,” later translated into “la tria genovese.”

The term tria apparently meant pasta at the time (perhaps a particular noodle made by hand with water salt and durum wheat, still present in Salento in another great dish of southern tradition: ciceri e tria).

The recipe “de tria ianuensis” tells precisely of a sauce made with onions and meat.

What I am describing today, on the other hand, is the recipe for ziti spezzati alla genovese, which I have revisited in a gourmet key, starting from what was described by Ippolito Cavalcanti duke of Buonvicino in his 1837 treatise on Neapolitan cuisine.






  • 3.3 lbs of brown onions
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 carrots
  • 2.6 lbs of beef (preferably scottona:  is a young bovine female aged no more than 15-16 months and it has never been pregnant)
  • 1/4 cup (1.7 fl oz) of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 glass  (3/4 cup) of white wine
  • 1 glass (3/4 cup) of tomato puree
  • 1.1 lbs of broken bronze ziti
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated pecorino cheese according to taste



Step 1
Thinly dice the carrots and celery, while the onion should be thinly sliced.

Step 2
Cut the selected beef into large pieces.

Step 3
After doing these things, put the extra virgin olive oil in the chosen pot (it must be large) and when it becomes hot, add the diced carrots and celery. Once the diced vegetables are golden, add the beef and seal it over low heat.

Step 4
As soon as the meat is sealed, deglaze everything with the white wine, then add the onions and immediately after, the tomato puree (in the chosen amount depending on the color you want to give to the “genovese”).

Step 5
Start the slow cooking process at this point. Ippolito Cavalcanti uses the expression “Chian Chian” for this method, for a variable time between 4 and 5 hours at least, until the onion becomes almost a creamy puree and the meat is tender (you can feel it with a fork). Only at this point adjust everything with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Step 6
While the “genovese” completes its cooking (be very careful that it does not stick to the bottom and does not dry out, in which case you need to add a little water), break the ziti to the size of three fingers horizontally and cook them in slightly salted boiling water (in the end, the pecorino cheese adjusts the saltiness).

Step 7
Once the pasta is drained, toss it with the sauce (many people like to serve the “genovese” as a single dish together with the meat) and a generous handful of pecorino cheese.

Step 8
Bring to the table, garnishing the dish with a few fresh basil leaves.

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