Candele spezzate alla Genovese (or simply “La Genovesa”)


This is one of those recipes that makes your Sunday special 🙂

It’s probably the most typical pasta sauce of Naples area (and incredibly quite unknown in the rest of Italy), we can say it’s a recipe that has a “ritual” in it, and traditionally it’s a recipe that gathers the whole family (several people I mean, especially in the past).

The name means “at the Genoa way”, but as we said it’s a recipe from Naples. There are several legends behind the name, but none of them is perfectly clear.

One story says that some centuries ago, in the harbor of Naples, there were many dives hold by chefs from Genoa, and there the sauce was born. Another story says that a chef from Naples created this recipe, and his nickname was “‘o genoves”. But there are some more stories 🙂

Probably we will never get a real answer to this question, but what really matters is that this recipe is very good 🙂

It’s a very long recipe to make, something that we can prepare only on Sunday usually, when we have all the time 🙂 indeed, it has to cook many hours at very low heat: some people, the more traditional, will cook it also for 8/10 hours long (someone cook it 4 hours already on Saturday evening and then other 4 hours on Sunday morning)! Nowadays more and more people tend to make it a bit faster, someone say that 3/4 hours are enough. I think it depends on how many onions you use, how much meat and which cuts. But to melt well the onions I think that at least 5 hours are needed. We must obtain a creamy brownish sauce, and I noticed that only after about 5 hours the sauce starts to get that color, texture and consistence. In this case I started to cook it at around 7:00am, and we ate it at almost 1:00pm, so I cooked it for almost 6 hours.

The ingredients are not too many, but there are some details to take care, as always 🙂

Which meat? Beef. Or veal. (probably in the past also old cows were used, as in many of these long time cooking traditional recipes). But someone add also some pork meat, like the chops.

Which cuts? The best choices are the muscles of the back legs with their gristle, the beef round and the rump. But someone use also the brisket. But also the cheek can be perfect. Then someone prefer to cut the meat in medium size cubes and cook them until they fall apart inside the sauce, someone cut them instead in bigger pieces and serve them after the pasta, and someone else cook a whole piece of meat and take it out from the cocotte/pot after 3-4 hours, to serve it sliced after the pasta, as a second course.

Which onion? This is very important, the white onions and the young/spring onions are not good for this recipe. Just to know it for curiosity, in Naples they use “cipolla ramata di Montoro“, but since these onions are not available everywhere we can say that the onions to choose are the golden onions. Someone use an onion-meat rate of 1:1, someone use 1,5:1, someone else use 2:1 (and I read of someone even up to 3:1).

Which type of pasta? The tradition wants “candele” or “ziti” (ziti were traditionally used in weddings, “zita” means “bride” in the local dialect), broken one by one with hands. They are a traditional type of pasta typical from the area of Naples, they are produced in very long shape (usually about 50 cm), following traditional methods to dry the pasta very slowly, and to break this pasta on Sunday morning it is/was also part of this “ritual” in the families of Naples 🙂 but since to find this pasta it’s not easy everywhere, also “mezzani” or “rigatoni” can be a very good choice, or in alternative also “tortiglioni“, “maccheroni” or”penne“. Also “paccheri” would be great.


The recipe I’m going to show is just one of the many recipes about this dish, indeed we can say that probably every family in the area of origin has a personal recipe 🙂 someone use the white wine (the most common choice), someone the red wine, someone even the Marsala wine and someone else don’t use wine at all. Someone add some tomatoes. Someone use certain spices, someone prefer other spices. Someone add also meat from pig thigh and also Neapolitan salami. Someone use just extra virgin olive oil, someone use the lardo too (or the “sugna”). Someone use also some pancetta/guanciale . But the procedure it’s always about the same, and the main ingredients are these.


INGREDIENTS (4 people):

  • 600 g of beef meat (the cuts explained above)
  • 1 Kg of onions (I used 700 g of golden onions and 300 g of red onions)
  • 400 g of pasta (as explained above)
  • 1 rib of celery
  • a big carrot
  • extra virgin olive oil (to cover all the bottom of the cocotte/pot, about 100 ml)
  • 30/40 g of lardo (optional, you can use just extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 glass of dry white wine
  • aromatic herbs (sage, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves…what you prefer)
  • some very little nutmeg (optional)
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  1. The first thing to do is to cut the meat into big pieces, about 8/10 cm large.
  2. Then clean the onions and cut them into thin slices (not too small, it’s enough to cut the onions in half and then you cut slices from the half onions), and put them in a bowl with some little salt (few pinches), and give a very fast mix..
  3. Now take a cocotte/high pot, put inside all the oil and the lardo cut very small, and heat it up. When it’s hot drop all the meat inside and sear it well on all its sides, at high heat.
  4. Once the meat is seared add the white wine and keep the heat high until it has reduced.
  5. Now add also the carrot and the celery, finely chopped, and the aromatic herbs tied together, and give a mix. Let it go at medium/low heat for 5 minutes, and then put all the onions inside.
  6. Set the heat very low, and let it simmer. You could add also a bit of hot water, but in this case I didn’t and the onions in my opinion released enough liquids (I used an onion-meat rate of a bit more than 1,5:1, maybe if you choose to use less onions you could need some water). Control and give a little mix sometimes, every hour about. It has to cook until the meat gets very soft, and the onions have to melt, you must obtain almost a cream, with a brownish color. I suggest to simmer for at least 4-5 hours, even 6 hours. But it can go even longer 🙂
  7. After 2/3 hours you can remove the aromatic herbs. And in the case you managed to find the pasta called “candele” or “ziti” you can already break it in pieces of about 8/10 cm long, for later.
  8. When you see that the sauce is ready, unless you decided to eat the meat after the pasta as a second course, squeeze the meat with a wooden spoon or a fork, and break it in small pieces. You must be able to do it with no power, the meat has to break apart very easily. If you would like, now you can add a little bit of grated nutmeg (just a little bit, take care).
  9. Regulate the salt, and season with a bit of freshly ground black pepper.
  10. Now take another pot and boil the water, with salt. When it starts boiling, put the pasta to cook.
  11. Meanwhile, in the case the cocotte/pot you used for the sauce is not large enough, take a large sauté pan and put the sauce inside, and heat it up at medium heat.
  12. When the pasta is ready (follow exactly the time written on the package), drain it and drop it in the pan with the sauce, and let the starch of the pasta to mix well with the sauce, for 1-2 minutes (you can add also a ladle of the boiling water while the sauce is cooking these 1-2 minutes with the pasta).
  13. Finally is ready 😀 serve it in the dishes, and grate some Parmigiano Reggiano on it.
  14. Beef usually requires a red wine, but because of so many onions the usual pairing with this recipe is a white wine 🙂 Enjoy!


Products used:

Beef: Angus from “Terra Pannonia”

Pasta: Candele lunghe from Pastificio Gentile



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