Stefano of Italian Home Cooking has done it again: he posted a delicious traditional Italian recipe that I had not heard of before. I love Ragù alla Napoletano, which is a large piece of beef braised in tomato sauce. The tomato sauce obtains a wonderful beefy flavor, and is served over pasta as primo piatto. Then the beef itself is sliced and served with some remaining sauce as secondo. The dish that Stefano posted is called Genovese and is also from Naples, but instead of tomatoes the beef is braised in onions until the onions are deeply browned and sweet and the meat is tender. The dish also contains mixed salumi like pancetta and spicy salame, for which traditionally one would ask the butcher for leftover ‘end’ pieces of those cured meats at a reduced price. Strangely enough the name Genovese refers to the Ligurian city of Genova instead of Naples. There are multiple theories to explain this, including a reference to tuccu, the Genovese version of ragù, or Genovese restaurants in the harbor of Naples in the 19th century that used to serve this dish.
As with all traditional Italian recipes, there are countless versions. Like Stefano, I used beef brisket. The amount of onions varies between as much or twice as much as the beef. I suspect that in the 19th century even more onions were used. I had never cooked onions sous-vide before and was curious to try it. It takes some time (24 hours at 85C/185F), but results in wonderfully browned onions. I then cooked the beef sous-vide in the onion sauce for 48 hours at 57C/135F to allow the flavors to marry. I first served ziti (a typical short pasta shape from Naples) with some of the sauce, and then the beef with the remaining sauce. It was wonderful. The tender juicy meat worked very well with the sweet beefy onion sauce (which was also great over pasta). Thank you, Stefano, for the inspiration. If you don’t have sous-vide, visit Stefano’s blog for a more traditional preparation. He has a sous-vide now, so I hope he’ll try my sous-vide version.
For 4 servings as primo and secondo
800 grams (1.75 lb) beef brisket, preferably the deckle or point (the fattier part)
4 Tbsp olive oil
1.2 kilograms (2.6 lb) onions, thinly sliced
120 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
2 Tbsp tomato concentrate
40 grams (1.4 oz) pancetta
40 grams (1.4 oz) salame
1 stick celery
fresh aromatic herbs: parsley, basil, sage, thyme, bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper
300-400 grams (.66 – .9 lb) ziti or other short pasta
freshly grated parmigiano, for garnish
Slice the onions.
Rub the brisket with salt and freshly ground black pepper on all sides.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole over medium-high heat and add the brisket.
Brown the brisket over medium-high heat on all sides until deeply browned.
Take the brisket out of the pan and set aside to cool.
There will be a lot of flavor left in the casserole.
Mince the carrot, celery, and cured meats, and add to the casserole.
Stir over medium heat until the vegetables start to dry.
Add the onions and season with salt.
Stir over medium heat until the onions start to become limp.
Mix 2 tablespoons of tomato concentrate with 120 ml of dry white wine.
Add this mixture to the onions.
Tie the aromatic herbs together to be able to remove them easily afterwards, and add them to the onions.
Cover the meat and refrigerate, but first add all the juices that leaked out of the meat to the onions.
Vacuum seal the onions. Allow them to cool down and then vacuum seal in a chamber vacuum sealer, or put them in a ziplock bag and use the water displacement method.
Cook the onions sous-vide for 24 hours at 85C/185F. Notice the change in color.
Allow the onions to cool down and then vacuum seal them together with the beef in a chamber vacuum sealer, or add the beef to the ziplock bag and use the water displacement method to reseal.
Cook the beef with the onions sous-vide for 48 hours at 57C/135F.
When you are ready to serve, bring a pot of water to a boil, then add salt and the ziti.
Put two thirds of the sauce in a pan. Remove the herbs. Keep the remaining sauce and the meat warm (if using a ziplock bag you could reseal and put it back in the sous-vide).
Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer it as needed to thicken slightly. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the sauce.
Toss the pasta until it is well mixed with the sauce.
Serve the pasta on preheated plates, sprinkled with some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.
When it is time to serve the secondo, slice the meat across the grain…
…and serve on preheated plates with the remaining sauce.
It can be no surprise that both primo and secondo pair beautifully with Taurasi, the aglianico-based wine from an area near Naples. This “Radici” 2008 from Mastroberardino was especially fine with it.
This pork with chipotles, mushrooms, and cream is a variation on a Mexican dish with chicken and has great depth of flavor. The meatiness of the pork, the smoky spiciness of the chipotles, the earthy mushrooms and the creaminess of the cream go really well together.