What is Genovese sauce?
Genovese is actually a last name that describes a person from Genoa. So you might think Genovese sauce comes from Genoa, however in this case it was actually popularized in Naples. I learned about Genovese sauce on a trip to Naples, while on a mission to not eat the same pasta twice. Genovese sauce is characterized by beef slow cooked with lots of onions and tomatoes. As someone who loves onions and tomatoes, this meal was an immediate winner. Once you shred the beef and stir everything together, you have a delightful sauce that clings tightly to the long linguine noodles, and when topped with a little parmesan, is a delight.
Celery and Carrots in a pasta sauce? This is a mirepoix base.
The first time you find a recipe calling for carrot and celery in a pasta sauce, it’s not uncommon to be surprised and a little confused. I know I was. But, while this seems strange compared to your usual tomato sauce recipe, celery and carrot are frequently added as the base to many sauces in western cuisine. The combination of celery, carrot, and onion is known as mirepoix (meer-pwah). A mirepoix is usually cooked low and slow to release all of the vegetables’ flavors into the sauce. This is particularly important in this recipe as the sweetness from the carrots will permeate throughout the entire dish, adding sweetness and flavor without any added sugar. Just make sure to dice your carrots and celery as small as you can. In fact, if you don’t like the size of the celery and carrot pieces, you could pulse them in a food processor or blender until very fine and then use them for cooking. This will ensure they more or less dissolve into the sauce, making for a wonderful Linguine Genovese.
One difference from the usual mirepoix that you’ll see here is that I have not diced the onions. Usually all three vegetables – carrots, celery, and onion – would be finely diced. I purposely slice the onion into thin, long strips so that they will still be noticeable in the finished sauce. I love the way they wrap around the noodles and cling to the shredded beef. I also think that having larger pieces of onion allows me to really pile them on top of the beef in the slow cooker. This means that as the slow cooker heats up, the onions will start to steam the meat, imparting huge flavor.
Preparing the dish
When I got my first slow cooker, I would usually navigate away from any recipe that recommended I pre-brown my meat. The point of buying a slow cooker was so that I could dump and go in the morning, not spend 10-20 minutes preparing meat. But, especially with Italian slow cooker recipes, I’ve found that it is absolutely worth the 10-20 minutes it takes to brown the meat. The browning process adds flavor to the meat that adds a deeper flavor to the entire dish, and I recommend always doing it. As an aside, did you know that browning meat has a fancy scientific name called the Maillard Reaction.
Layering your Linguine Genovese
For Linguine Genovese I suggest layering the ingredients very specifically. Beef on the bottom, carrots, celery, drained tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, and onions on top. The wine ensures that the beef will always have liquid to cook in, and it keeps the bay leaf simmering the longest, which draws out the bay leaf’s flavor. Topping the celery and carrots with tomatoes helps them soften up more quickly, thanks to the moisture and acidity of the tomatoes. And finally, as I mentioned above, the onions create a beautiful steam layer. For the first 2 hours, the onions will begin to steam and smell delicious, keeping the rest of the ingredients encapsulated in onion steam. After the first 2 hours, I recommend stirring the onions into the sauce to speed up their cooking, and they will continue transferring flavor once submerged into the sauce.
- Reduce tears by slicing your onions the short way. When processing your onions, first remove the top, bottom, and any tough outer skin. Then, slice thinly from top to bottom. This makes the cuts shorter, which means less tears on your part.
- Try using multiple varieties of onions. I love a mix of white, sweet, and red onions for this recipe, though I often use whatever I have on hand (usually sweet). A variety of onions will give an even deeper and more complex flavor.
- I recommend using a sauvignon blanc wine to make this meal. A dry white wine will produce the best sauce. If you don’t have sauvignon blanc, you could use chardonnay as well. If all you have is red wine, you could also use that as long as it’s a dry red.
Try my other pasta dishes
How to make Linguine Genovese
- 2 1/2 lbs Chuck roast
- 1 tbsp Canola oil
- 1 Celery rib
- 2 Carrots, thin finely diced
- 3-5 Onions, large sliced thin
- 32 oz Smoked tomatoes drained of all excess liquid
- 1/2 cup Sauvignon blanc or other dry white wine
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 tbsp Tomato paste
- Cut the beef into large chunks and coat with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
- Brown the beef chunks in 1 tbsp hot canola oil for 1-2 minutes per side, trying to brown at least 2 sides of each piece. You don't need to brown all sides
- Layer in the slow cooker browned beef, diced celery and carrot, pour drained tomatoes over top, then wine. Place the bay leaf into the wine. Top evenly with sliced onions and cook on high for 4-6 hours,stirring every 2 hours.
- Shred the beef and return to the pot. Stir to combine the beef with the onions and remaining veggies in the sauce.
- Add up to 2 tbsp of tomato paste if the sauce needs thickening, then let simmer until combined, about 15 minutes.
- Serve over cooked linguine pasta, topped with some fresh parmesan and spinach or basil leaves.