Penne Pasta with Genovese Sauce Recipe

April 22, 2015 8 Comments

Penne Pasta with Genovese Sauce Recipe

A Classic Pasta Dish From Naples Italy

My wife read about this recipe in the New York Times a few weeks ago and we had to give it a try. It is a very simple southern Italian dish that reminds me a little of another favor pasta sauce but from the northern town of Bologna called bolognese sauce.

Both are meat based although bolognese uses a combination of ground beef, veal and pork and both use onion but a lot more in this Genovese sauce. In fact, the traditional recipe calls for two parts onions to one part beef and a whole lot of patience.

Simple But Not Fast

As you can see from the list of ingredients, there are very few of them so the prep time isn’t that long. However, the time to break down the onions (and there are a lot of them) and then the beef is considerable so don’t plan on making this one when you come home from work midweek.

The article suggests boiling the onions, a not so traditional technique, to speed up the cooking process. We went with the old fashion method of slow cooking them for a longer period of time.

 What Pasta Should You Serve With Genovese Sauce?

Ideally you want to use a large pasta like rigatoni with ridges and holes that the meat sauce can find its way into. Ziti is another good choice as well as penne which is what we used.


Timing is important. The onions and meat are going to take a while. How long? At least 2 hours and up to 3 hours. Then you’ll need another hour to finish the sauce.  This is no quick pan sauce and if you are serving it the same night, you have to figure out how long it will take the water to come to a boil and then how long it will take to cook the pasta so you can get all your timing down.

Another way to go is to make the sauce the day before and then it’s just a matter of cooking the pasta and serving with some Parmesan cheese. Up to you.

Genovese Sauce

Penne Pasta with Genovese Sauce Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 6 - 8

Penne Pasta with Genovese Sauce Recipe


¼ pound bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 celery rib, trimmed and chopped

2 ½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes

4 pounds red onions, thinly sliced

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup dry white wine

1 pound dried penne pasta

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

How To Prepare At Home

Start by prepping all the ingredients. It's called mise en place and one of the most important steps many home cooks skip (including myself) but should not.

Heat up a large sauce pot over medium heat. When hot, add the bacon and let it cook for a few minutes to render the fat. Add the the carrots & celery and lower the heat to medium.

Cook for another 4 or 5 minutes, add the beef, then cook for an additional couple of minutes. Cover the beef with the onions, add the oil and season with salt and pepper.

Cover the pan and bring the ingredients to a simmer. The onions will release a ton of liquid creating a nice simmering liquid. Cook for 2 to 3 hours until the beef is nice and tender.

Uncover the pot, turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil. Be sure to stir often to prevent burning. You may have to adjust the heat from medium-high to medium and back again if the pan gets too hot. This goes on for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the meat falls apart and the sauce becomes creamy. It also means you have to stay close and not walk away from stove.

(Start thinking about bringing a large pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.)

Add the wine and give the sauce a stir. Lower the heat to low and let the sauce cook for another 10 - 15 minutes until the sauce thickens to a desired consistency. Again, be sure to stir often to keep the sauce from burning.

Cook the pasta until al dente*, drain and combine with sauce in 1 of 3 ways:

1. Add the sauce directly to the pot of sauce and gently toss to combine.

2. Add the sauce to a large serving bowl, add the pasta and again, gently toss to combine.

3. Add individual servings of pasta to bowls and top with some sauce.

Add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve. I like to bring some extra cheese to the table for those who want to add a little more to their dish.

*Al dente translates to “to the tooth” or “to the bite,” and it means that the pasta should still provide some resistance instead of being completely soft all the way through.



Last modified on Thu 22 October 2015 11:21 am

Comments (8)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Lea says:

    How many onions? How should they be chopped?

    Thanks and cheers,

  2. Don Grant says:


    I think you forgot to mention in the recipe the quantity of onions in the Penne Pasta with Genovese Sauce.



  3. Bob says:

    Sounds wonderful – 2 questions – how much olive oil? – how much and what type of onion? Tanx in advance. This will be my Sunday dinner this weekend,

  4. tim plog says:

    thanks for another good one Mr Reluctant…
    learned something new about Italian gravy…has/needs no tomato…

Leave a Reply