Salsa Genovese (Onion Ragù with Beef)

This slow-cooked onion and meat sauce is typically served with rigatoni, ziti or paccheri pasta and sprinkled with grated cheese.

Salsa Genovese (Onion Ragù with Beef)

Recipe by Anna BembryCourse: MainCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Simple


Prep time


Cooking time





The secret to this pasta sauce’s creamy richness are ordinary red onion, cooked ever so slowly.


  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

  • 340 g (3/4 pound) whole beef chuck

  • 4 lbs red onions, peeled and halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced

  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced

  • 1 cup (250 ml) white wine

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 lb rigatoni, alternatively ziti, paccheri or candele

  • 1/2 cup (1 cup if using microplane) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, stemmed and finely chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Basil for garnish


  • In a Dutch oven or other heavy lidded pot, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Add meat to pot and cook on all sides until browned, 8 – 12 minutes. Remove and season well with salt and pepper. Add onions, carrots and celery to pot. Cook stirring often, until wilted, about 20 minutes. Add wine and bring to a simmer and stir in tomato paste. Return meat to pot, cover the pot with a lid and simmer until meat is tender and onions start to dissolve into a cream, 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours. Let cool. Remove meat and shred with a fork into bite-size pieces. Return meat to pot with onions and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Salt well, to the level of seawater. Cook pasta according to package instructions until just short of al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup (250 ml) pasta water.
  • Add pasta to pot with onions and meat and cook, stirring well, over medium heat until pasta reaches desired doneness. Add reserved pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, and continue to cook, stirring, to make a creamy emulsion, 1 – 2 minutes more. Stir in most of the Parmigiano, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish, and parsley.
  • Serve immediately in a warmed pasta bowl and garnish with remaining Parmigiano and torn basil leaves.

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